A side for every grilling occasion: Buttery Rice with Lemon Thyme and Lime. - Something Edible
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A side for every grilling occasion: Buttery Rice with Lemon Thyme and Lime.

A side for every grilling occasion: Buttery Rice with Lemon Thyme and Lime.

Abstract: Grilling time has begun on the High Plains, and while there's probably no question as to what you're throwing over the fire, choosing appropriate sides (besides a beer) can be vexing. This rice side carries with it the buttery aroma of the vegetables it's been cooked with, and is bolstered by the sweet tang of fresh lime juice and the astringent aroma of lemon thyme. So, even if that steak ends up being cooked a bit too long, at least the side dish will be memorable.

Purpose: I love to grill as much as the next guy, but as a fella who has a soft spot for side dishes, it never quite feels right to be showing a main course all that love while punting on its plate mate. There's only so many times one can use a baked potato and salad to back up a grilled masterpiece before it begins to feel mundane.

As I kicked-off my grilling season this week, I've decided to pay the side dish it's propers and do this buttery, citrusy rice side. In the various spaces I relegate to herbs around my premises, I have a place where lemon thyme overwinters without worry and is doing exceptionally well, even here in early spring. I love that distinct amalgamation of herb and zest that lemon thyme imparts to whatever dish it's added. I more or less developed this recipe to showcase said herb; but all the same, if you can't procure any this is still a great bit of plate real estate that will compliment just about anything that comes off of your grill.

Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -

  • 2 Tbsps butter
  • 1/2 cup celery Diced; tops included (about a stalk's worth).
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion Diced (about 1/4 of a large onion).
  • 1/2 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice Fresh-squeezed is best (that would be the juice from one small lime).
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon thyme Minced fresh.

  • On medium heat in a medium saucepan, melt the butter. When the butter just starts to foam, add the celery and onion and sweat those veggies for 5 minutes. Add the rice and continue over medium heat for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally until some of the rice rice starts to turn golden brown. Dissolve the lime juice and salt into the water and add it to the rice and veggies (watch the steam!). Bring back to a boil and then take the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. After the simmer, let the rice sit off the heat (still covered) for 5 more minutes. Finish by stirring in the rice vinegar & minced herbage.


    • Lemon thyme is a cultivated cross. Thyme varieties are selected and crossed to get that "fresh lemon scent". Gregor Mendel would be proud.
    • No lemon thyme? Not a big deal. The regular variety will suffice; or even something like parsley or cilantro would work.
    • A smaller lime should yield about a tablespoon of juice. If you have a larger lime, you might only need half.
    • Get your knifework out of the way before-hand. Having your mise en place ready makes the rest of this dish cinchy.
    • Once everything is in for the simmer, it's important to keep the lid on that pot. The more you open the lid, the longer it's gonna take to cook. Stirring your rice as it cooks is right-out.
    • A minimum of a five-minute covered rest after the simmer ensures that any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot will release.
    • I usually make my rice a little ahead of the rest of dinner. It keeps quite nicely in a covered pot in a warm oven. If you do do-ahead, be sure to hold off on adding the vinegar and the fresh herb until it's time to serve, otherwise the fresh flavors get lost.

    Results: As we're dealing with a linear, one-pot preparation here, this is side really doesn't come together all that quickly. However, it is a dish that is very forgiving regarding when it's served; which for the purposes of grilling is great. If you're worried about this recipe making enough, I'd say to go ahead and double it, as the leftovers are stupendous.  As far as day-two possibilities are concerned, I like this rice served cold atop a big bed of olive oil-dressed greens, and it's also the perfect filling for cramming into a wrap with whatever you see fit to include with it.

    Rice is great and all, but only when it actually tastes like something. Even if you're simply steaming some plain ol' white, the most important opportunity for flavor occurs when the water's added. I've tinkered with adding the two different acids that season this stuff during different stages of cooking, and doing it the way I've outlined here infuses the grains with that noticeable hint of lime, but employs the vinegar to cut the sweetness with that subtle bite that most folks expect when they know citrus is in the dish. As far as the lemon thyme's concerned, if you've never cooked with this herb, you're in for a treat.  It's earthy and a little bit pungent like one would expect thyme to be, but it also carries with it the unmistakable aroma of lemon zest. The last time I made this dish, it was piled next to some steaks and chops. And while that was some swell eating, If you have access to good local seafood to go with, I'd say this recipe is a must-try.

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