Technique drawn from Mel’s Kitchen Café
I have made a more complex version of this dish, but today I wanted a simple side dish that would not distract from the star dish, the chicken. Also, half of my diners this week are not eating starch, so it would be wasted effort. I have been trying to make Mexican rice for years with only limited success.
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.
Like many people I would dump all of the ingredients into the pot and cook them all together. 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 fluid to rice ratio—you were left with sticky, flavorful glop. Not the ideal side dish. The secret to restaurant quality Mexican/Spanish rice—make the rice and sauce separately and then mix them together just before serving.
Karl’s Simple Mexican Rice
1 cup of long grain white rice
2 Tbs. corn oil, separate uses
1½ cups of low-sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth for Vegan)
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
½ tsp. Kosher salt
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
½ Tbs. tomato paste
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. lemon juice
½ cup of freshly chopped cilantro
1. Roast the chilies and tomato in the broiler.
Tip: I normally prepare my tomatoes for peeling by blanching the whole tomato. This cooks the flesh just under the skin, making it soft and the peel easy to remove. Today, I was roasting chilies and—instead of heating a whole pot of water—I cut the tomato in half and put it in the broiler—cut side down—for three minutes. This had the same effect as blanching them.
Note: Roast the tomato for three minutes and the chilies for about 10 minutes, turning frequently.
2. Put the blackened chilies into a plastic bag to steam.
3. Peel the tomato and remove the seeds.
Tip: Place a fine mesh sieve over a small bowl and scrape the seeds into it. Press the jelly through the sieve and into the bowl. Discard the seeds.
Note: For this dish, most of the moisture for the sauce comes from the tomatoes. I did not want
4. When the chilies are cool enough to handle, peel, seed and chop them. Put them in the same bowl as the tomatoes.
5. In a medium-sized pot, add rice and 1 Tbs. corn oil. Cook the rice, stirring constantly until the grains start to brown.
6. Add the chicken broth to the rice and bring the pot to a boil over high heat.
7. Stir and cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 17-20 minutes.
8. Remove from heat and keep the pot covered for 5 more minutes.
9. . While the rice is cooking, heat the second tablespoon of corn oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
10. Sauté the onions with the salt for 10 minutes, until translucent and starting to brown.
11. Pull the onions to the sides of the pan and add the garlic and tomato paste to the hole in the center.
12. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste is starting to brown.
13. Stir the tomato mixture, and the spices into the pan and cook for another minute or two.
Tip: For better flavor you may toast the coriander and cumin seeds before grinding them.
14. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Tip: If the sauce seems too dry add one tablespoon of water or broth.
15. Fluff the rice in the pot.
16. Just before serving, mix the cooked rice, lemon juice, and most of the cilantro into the pan with the tomato sauce.
17. Adjust the seasoning to taste and fold the ingredients together until the rice is well coated.
18. Serve immediately with a cilantro garnish.
19. (Optional) Put extra cilantro and lemon wedges on table to sprinkle over the rice as individuals choose.