We try to look for the little rules of cooking that make it easier. Not because we want to be slaves to always doing things the so-called right way, but because when you know a few little formulas, you can get by without a cookbook or recipe card.
As when you're away from home—say, at a friend's cabin—and helping throw together a meal. Knowing that a vinaigrette dressing is three parts oil and one part vinegar means that you can dress any salad. Add a little mustard or some herbs, and you've got a great dressing.
Two of our favorite simple rules involve the number 17.
1. Put any room-temperature bottle of white wine in the freezer for 17 minutes, and it will be cold enough to serve.
2. The perfect rice cooks in 17 minutes. When it comes to white rice, whether basmati or any other, no matter what the directions say, always remember that 17 minutes of simmering will result in nutty, crunchy rice.
More details: Wash your rice thoroughly, especially if you buy in bulk. Add 1 cup of rinsed rice to one and a half cups of cold water, along with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of vegetable or olive oil. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Cover the pan, lower to simmer, and set the timer for 17 minutes.
It works every time.