I love crispy rice: the slowly browned disks at the bottom of Persian tahdig or Spanish paella, the breaded and fried edges of risotto balls. But what if I just want the rice-crispiness without the rest of the soft grains diluting it?
My answer is to cook a small amount of rice in a wide skillet with the same technique I use when making a full pot of rice: The rice is brought to a boil in water, then covered and the heat reduced to low and gently steamed for 15 minutes until tender. To make a crispy rice cake, I slide cubes of butter down the sides of the pan once the rice is tender and half an inch thick; the butter melts and seeps under the rice, frying it to a golden brown, crunchy disk.
I break the rice cake into large shatterings while still warm and toss them with cold herbs coated in olive oil and lots of lemon juice. The crunchy, bright mélange is served alongside medium-rare scallops — plump and sweet, their texture and flavor are wonderful contrasts to the toasty rice, but any simply sautéed fillet of fish would work.
Once you master this technique, you’ll be making crispy rice cakes to use in place of croutons or to mix with chopped herbs and lemon zest for an all-purpose crunchy topping to scatter over slices of steak or pork tenderloin.