Tuesday, July 21, 2009

White House Worthy Rice

Like Avery, I attempt to recreate restaurant treasures at home when I discover something particularly special. Not long ago, I took my daughter and her boyfriend to lunch at Bandera, a club-like restaurant in Chicago that can be easily missed if you don’t know it’s there. On the second floor of its north Michigan Avenue location, it is accessed via escalator immediately inside the street-level doors, and boasts great views of the bustling street below.

The menu had changed since I’d last been there. Lots of new and exciting offerings. But that day I decided to have the restaurant’s specialty—broasted chicken. Not a particularly exciting choice, but it smelled divine. The waitress informed me that they were testing out a new rice, and that the side dish on the menu was no longer available. I’m not usually much of a rice girl, but because my chicken choice was safe, I decided to be adventurous with my side. “Sounds great,” I told her. Am I glad I did. The chicken was fabulous, but the rice was superb.

I couldn’t wait to try making this at home, but I had no idea where to start. Then I remembered something from my White House research. One of the early menus prepared by our current White House chef, Cristeta Comerford (the real chef, not my fictional Ollie), included Basmati rice. At the time I had no idea what that was, but the name stuck with me.

Grown in India and Pakistan, Basmati’s name translates to “fragrant one,” or “the soft rice.” I chose baby Basmati which I found at my local grocery store, and went to work, trying my best to recreate the combination of flavors I had so thoroughly enjoyed. I'd like to think this side dish is similar to the one served in the White House.

Like Avery and her artichokes (yum!), I think I’ve gotten pretty close.

(But the White House has much fancier serving bowls!)

Cilantro Rice

2 cups water
1 T olive oil
1 cup baby basmati rice

1 pinch cumin seeds, crushed
1 t parsley
1 T chives, chopped
1 ½ T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 egg
2 tsp salt
3 T butter

Bring water and olive oil to a boil. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to low. Set timer for 8 minutes. While rice is simmering, combine cumin, parsley, chives, and cilantro in a small bowl. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg, like you’re making scrambled eggs. When the timer goes off, stir the egg into the rice, making sure it’s well combined. Add herb mixture, stir well, and cover. Set timer for 5 minutes. When time’s up add salt and butter, stir, and cook for an additional minute or two. Transfer to bowl and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Thanks! Hope you enjoy!

Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef series features State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and Eggsecutive Orders (coming in January). All from Berkley Prime Crime. Check out Julie’s website at http://www.juliehyzy.com/


  1. I swear, I'm going to gain weight reading this blog. This sounds heavenly, Julie. Can't wait to try it.

  2. LOL! I think I'm going to gain weight too, by being part of this blog. I have lots of recipes I plan to try out before posting here... and that means I have to taste test all of them, right?
    Thanks, Lorna! Great to see you here.


  3. Oh, yum. I've already printed it out. But does it work in a microwave?

  4. Microwave, hmm... I don't know. I'll bet it would - but the timing may be different. I'll have to give it a try.
    Great suggestion, Sheila!


  5. I'm not much of a cook, but I love to read recipes, cookbooks, and mysteries with cooking. So, I'm following your blog. Good luck to all of you. (And, Julie, does this mean I'll never get my guest blog since you're talking about food here? Well, darn it!) And, I'll be following on Twitter!

    Lesa (http://lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com)

  6. Great post. I, too, was not a "rice" girl until I tried Basmati. Can't wait to try this recipe, and I even get to pretend I'm eating it in the White House.


  7. I think you'll like this one, Cleo. It's mild, yet flavorful.

    Lesa, I'd be honored to guest blog. Things are starting to finally settle down. Did I tell you about the new series? I'm in deadline hell at the moment, but almost, almost done ;-)

  8. Oh, this sounds fantastic! White House worthy for sure. :)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  9. Sounds yummy! I am a rice girl so I can't wait to try it. Love that you have an insider's look to the White House, too. Can we all get invited there someday?

  10. Oh, and Julie? You didn't tell me about the new series! You'll have to let me know.