Technique drawn from Mel’s Kitchen Café
I have been trying to make Mexican rice for years with only limited success. Yes, the rice I made usually tasted good, but it was always a bit gummy. It never turn out like the fluffy savory rice you find in almost any Mexican restaurant.
This is one of those ethnic “home cooked” dishes that, if you did not watch your mother making it growing up, you will rarely discover the secret to making it. This technique is really not a secret, it is just considered too obvious to mention by the people who grew up with the dish.
When faced with a recipe like Mexican Rice I used the techniques of adding the vegetable ingredients to the pot. Maybe I would sauté them, maybe not. I would add the rice and stock, stir, put a lid on it and walk away for the cooking time. If you had exactly the right amount of liquid for the rice you would produce a decent dish. If the vegetables added a lot of fluid or you over did it on the rice to fluid ratio you were left with sticky, flavorful glop. Not the ideal side dish.
In searching the internet I finally found the secret technique to Mexican Rice on Mel’s Kitchen Café, who had gotten it from Homesick Texan. Homesick Texan had gotten the technique from a co-worker, who had in turn gotten it from her Mexican Mother. This too obvious technique is simply to cook the rice and sauce separately and then to combine them just before serving.
Karl’s Mexican Rice
1 ½ cup of long grain white rice
2 cans of low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoon of corn oil, separate uses
1 yellow onion, diced fine
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 Fresno (red) chili, roasted, skinned, and finely diced
1 Jalapeño chili, roasted, skinned, and finely diced
1 Poblano chili, roasted, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1 can of roasted tomatoes
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 ½ tsp. ground coriander
Salt to taste
1 Tbs. of lime juice, from about 1 lime
1 cup of freshly chopped cilantro (separate uses)
1. Put the tomatoes, peppers, garlic and salt into a small bowl and stir to combine. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes.
2. Spread the tomato mixture in a thin layer in a small, lightly oiled, lipped baking tray (7 x 9 inches) and sprinkle the sugar over it. Do not stir the tomatoes (the idea is for the sugar to help the tomatoes caramelize).
3. Put the tray 3 inches under a 500° broiler for about 20 minutes.
4. Roast the chilies in another small baking tray at the same time, turning occasionally.
5. When the tomatoes are starting to pick up some good color put them in a small bowl to cool.
6. Put the blackened chilies into a plastic bag to steam.
7. When the chilies are cool enough to handle, peel, seed and chop them. Put them in the same bowl as the tomatoes.
8. In a medium-sized pot, add rice and 1 Tbs. corn oil. Cook the rice, stirring constantly until the grains start to brown.
9. Add t can of the chicken broth and bring the rice to a boil over high heat. Stir and cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 17-20 minutes. Remove from heat and keep the pot covered for 5 more minutes.
10. While the rice is cooking, heat the second Tbs. of corn oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions in the hot oil for 10 minutes, until translucent and starting to brown.
11. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
12. Stir in the tomato and chili mixture, the tomato paste, and spices to the pan and cook for another minute or two.
13. Add the second can of chicken broth to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
14. Mix in hot, cooked rice, lime juice, half of the cilantro and season to taste with salt. Toss until well combined. Serve immediately with a cilantro garnish.
7. Put extra cilantro and lime wedges on table to sprinkle over rice as individuals choose.