That same crackly rice that cultures across the world hold on high—the well-toasted bottom layer of rice in a good paella, tahdig, or bibimbap—doesn't have to come only at the end of a perfectly made dish. It can be broken apart and distilled for us to eat whenever we like. This is probably a trick you'll want to bust out for dinner parties where you want to show off, and feel joy and rapture with others. But you could also make it just for you, with extra to have on hand—just keep the components separate till eating time so the rice stays crunchy. And once you have a jar of this gold, where else could you use your crackly puffed rice? On top of any salad, any bowl of sundry grains and vegetables. Your eggs, your noodles, your yogurt. Adapted slightly from Jessica Koslow of Sqirl and Bon Appetit (June 2014). —Genius Recipes
distilled white vinegar
short-grain brown rice
Vegetable oil (for frying—about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups
coarsely chopped cauliflower florets
bunch small curly kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
small English hothouse cucumber, finely chopped
scallion, thinly sliced
Aleppo pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
In This Recipe
Combine currants and vinegar in a small bowl, and let sit for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Cook rice in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
Drain rice, return it to the pot, cover, and let it sit 10 minutes. Spread the rice out on a baking sheet, and let it dry out overnight in an unlit oven or on the countertop.
Fit a small saucepan with a deep-fry or candy thermometer and pour in vegetable oil to measure 2 inches.
Heat over medium-high heat until the thermometer registers 350° F. Working in 4 batches, cook rice until lightly golden and puffed, about 1 minute. Using a fine-mesh sieve, transfer puffed rice to paper towels to drain, season with salt, and let cool.
Meanwhile, pulse cauliflower in a food processor until finely chopped, then transfer to a large bowl. Working in batches, pulse kale in the food processor until finely chopped (be careful not to turn it into a purée), adding it to the cauliflower as you go. Add the puffed rice, currants with soaking liquid, cucumber, scallion, olive oil, Aleppo pepper, and sumac, if using. Toss to combine and season with salt, black pepper, and more vinegar, if desired.
Note: Rice can be fried 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore.