Crispy tomato rice can be made with leftover rice but it’s so good it’s worth cooking it from scratch. Zinged with tomato and chilli, with cheesy topping flashed under the grill, this is one of the best rice side dishes.
What to do with leftover rice (when there is never any)?
What’s wrong with me? I never, ever have any leftover rice. There are all those wonderful recipes out there saying ‘use cold leftover rice’ but I honestly don’t know how other people do it.
I always seem to cook as much rice as I need and even if there’s a smidgen left, it’s a) never much, and b) in the prepared dish already, as I don’t often cook just plain rice to serve as a side.
Prawn fried rice! Special fried rice! Arancini! Rice cakes! Nasi goreng! Stuffed peppers or vine leaves! So many delights I either miss out on or have to boil rice from scratch for.
How to handle cooked rice
Maybe it’s my suppressed FOR (fear of rice) as rice can be a ripe ground for nasty bacteria developing if it’s left cooked too long at room temperature.
But it’s not an effort to make sure it goes into fridge as soon as it cools down a bit; and at the end of the day you don’t hear of many Chinese takeaways-related food poisoning cases; and I don’t imagine absolutely all of them are super big on hygiene and safety.
Either way, if cold cooked rice I need, I have to have it fresh and hot first. And so in the recipe below (inspired by tomato rice with crispy Cheddar on NY Times Cooking) the instructions include my fool proof rice cooking method not as a bonus, but as a main part.
By all means use your ready cooked, cold rice instead if you have it and don’t mind eating rice dishes two days in a row*.
Tomato rice is a cupboard staple dish
This is basically a jazzed up rice side dish, though I admit I love it so much I'm happy to have it on its own for dinner. It's a cupboard staple recipe, because you can use lightly drained tinned tomatoes instead of fresh.
Can you just use a bit of tomato puree? sure, why not. Can you use a different type of cheese? of course you can. Can you skip the onion? hell, yes.
The magic and the secret is in slipping the dish under the grill to make it crispy and melty, a little like inverted socarrat or tahdig, those marvellous crusty rice cakes lining the bottom of a Spanish paella or Persian rice.
And a final word on cooking rice from scratch. The method given below is a failproof way of cooking perfect fluffy rice, excellent if it's served as a side dish.
But between you and me, when I need to cook the rice and immediately chill it to be further prepared later, I simply plonk it into plenty boiling, salty water and cook for 10 minutes for white and 25 for brown rice. Drain, cool and fridge it - because the absolute essential condition for fried rice is to have it fridge-cold.
*because also, how long does rice safely keep in the fridge? don’t you have to use it pretty much immediately, i.e. the following day?