This time of year always seems to evoke more food memories than the warmer months. Maybe it is because New England autumns are such a part of my soul. They scream out memories as numerous as fallen leaves on the ground…and here where we are that can equate to thousands. This is somewhat amusing to me as I sit here looking out my window at the leaves floating free from the tall oak trees to the carpeted woods beneath them imagining each of them to be a memory. Maybe it will make me hate them less as I rake them up in a few weeks. Fall makes my belly feel hollow, dark and cold. Not in a bad way ~ it just always has. Which might be why most of my food memories are of comfort foods that reached out to me at times I really needed to be warmed.
Parmesan rice came to me in late fall of 1993. I suppose it could have been early winter…but our New England autumns do that sometimes…blend right into winters that come too early. I was in my first year of graduate school at Smith and wondering, somewhat, what I had gotten myself into. An MFA program in choreography and performance with two other women, all of us on the very young side for graduate school. We danced and rehearsed all day and usually all night. While it wasn’t my first time living alone, I was still getting used to the idea of it. My big recipe go to was pasta salad with roasted chicken which I didn’t even usually cook myself. I lived on cereal and lovely soups from a tiny hole in the wall spot called The Soup Kitchen, which has long since closed. One night one of the women invited us other two to her apartment for dinner. I have no idea what she served as the main dish. I don’t remember the apartment. I don’t remember the music that was probably on. I don’t remember what we talked about. I do, however, remember the parmesan rice. I will never forget it. It was one of those things that came unexpected to me. I could obviously see we were about to eat rice but that first mouthful surprised me with the creamy cheese. There wasn’t much of it- which is what made it so good. You’d get hits of the parmesan flavor and yearn for more. It has become one of my strongest food memories. And it isn’t difficult or unique or special in any sort of way. It is as simple as making the rice and shredding in some parmesan, salt and pepper. It was just such a comforting taste. One that I love to resurrect on late fall nights for my own family.
We were given an electric pressure cooker a few Christmases back and let me tell you…it is the only way to make rice! Because I wanted this rice to be super creamy and comforting I added 1 cup of jasmine rice to 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup cream. I did add some salt to the mix before cooking it on high pressure for three minutes. The result was a rice that was velvety (not in a risotto sort of way). I added some fresh thyme and a good shaving of parmesan cheese. Oh. So. Good.