Get a New Grain: Millet

I love millet, so it throws me when, more than with any other grain it seems, people scrunch up their noses when I mention it. In an effort to remedy this, I’m going to wax on a bit about why I adore it. First off, it’s a quick-cooking grain; on your plate in just 20 minutes. Second, it’s like vanilla ice cream: good on its own, yet still a blank canvas for whatever you want to make it. Third, its texture is lovely—and versatile; you can make it fluffy like a pilaf, or sticky like sticky rice. And last but not least, it’s incredibly nutritious, packing a good dose of protein and vitamin B along with minerals like iron and manganese.

Those four reasons should be enough to inspire you to read further. After you do, let me know what you love about millet!

millet-whole-grain

What it Looks Like: Millet looks like butter-colored—the really intensely yellow of French butter–beads.

What it Tastes Like: Taste-wise, I find millet to be about the same “neutral but with a pleasing flavor’”as a basic brown rice. Texture-wise, as I mentioned above, millet can vary from fluffy and almost poppy (as in it sort of bursts to the bite) to somewhat dense and sticky.

How to Cook it: As with many grains, millet takes on a deeper flavor and retains its integrity better if you toast it in a bit of fat in the pot before boiling (skip this step, though, if you want to the millet to be sticky). Then add 2-1/2 cups liquid (with millet, I like to use some sort of flavorful broth) to 1 cup millet. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Finish by letting the millet stand, covered, for 5 minutes and fluffing before serving.

How to Use it: I like to use millet as a stand-in for rice in baked one-pot dishes, like the Cuban-Style Millet con Pollo below. Sticky millet makes a fun crust for savory pies and casseroles.

Additional Notes: Like many whole grains, millet can go rancid quickly in the cupboard. It’s best to buy it in smaller quantities (from the bulk bin is fine … although sniff it to make sure it doesn’t smell bitter) and keep it in the freezer. Another big note—millet is gluten free.

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