Miracle Onion Rice

What to do with Leftover Rice

The downside of making rice is that we almost always make too much.

Those skimpy uneaten servings at the bottom of the pot lose most of their starchy appeal after a few hours in the fridge.

A few years ago, I discovered a quick dish that I’ve started calling Miracle Onion Rice. It’s a relatively effortless way to give the commonplace byproduct of any Gulf Coast kitchen a second, arguably tastier life. Making Miracle Onion Rice is a 10-minute process — a state of mind, really — that’s so simple it doesn’t even require a recipe. Just remember the four-step formula: rice plus onion plus herbs plus lemon.

The basic process couldn’t be easier: Brown a diced onion in vegetable oil as you microwave the leftover rice, juice two lemons, and finely mince standard kitchen herbs (I use parsley or green onions). Once the onions are translucent, stir in the recycled rice and herbs (a bunch per couple of servings will do) and pour the lemon juice on top. Mix well and serve.

In its purest form, Miracle Onion Rice is as versatile as it is quick. It makes a great side for a grilled redfish filet or chicken breast. Or if you’re looking for a hearty, wholesome main dish, it adds flavor as a base for your favorite cooked vegetables (broccoli, carrots, asparagus, sugar snap peas). Team it up with pre-made hummus and pita bread, and you’ve got a quick weeknight Mediterranean meal.

But the real fun starts when you monkey with the basic formula, depending on your mood or kitchen inventory. Altering its essential components — savory (onion), green (herbs) and bright (lemon) — you can improvise a million different flavor combinations in minutes.

You can intensify the onion with a clove or two of garlic and substitute a little jarred pesto (basically a basil leaf purée), and you’ve put a pleasantly Italian flavor profile on the dish.

A lighter riff on warm-weather risotto, without the slow, constant stirring. Or add some of your favorite flavoring sauces to the mix to add distinctive savor and personality.

If outdoor grilled chicken is the main course, fold in a little barbecue sauce for an accent flavor.

Set off Asian-themed dinners with a little soy or hot sauce when you need a little kick.

If you’re feeling adventurous, add the slightest bit of flavoring meat (cubes of leftover roast, some minced tasso, a slice of chopped bacon) for kicks.

The best thing about Miracle Onion Rice is the way it changes the way you look at the contents of your kitchen. Once you master the basic form, you’ll be looking for novel spice combinations and other tasty experiments. And once you get really comfortable, you’ll find yourself making a little “extra extra” rice on gumbo night, just to give yourself another reason to work on your miracle game.