Technique drawn from Mel’s Kitchen Café
Jan is pushing me to use more “low glycemic” starches in my diet. I wanted beans and rice to go with my chili verde. To please her, I am using brown rice, instead of my usual white rice.
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.
Mexican rice should be fairly reddish and one tomato does not give brown rice a particularly red cast. I have recently discovered annatto seeds and I have started using them in my Mexican dishes to give them a red color and a subtle flavor. Usually, you steep the seeds in boiling oil to extract their goodness, because the seeds are so hard they would destroy most spice grinders.
Karl’s Mexican Brown Rice
½ tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. coriander seeds
2½ Tbs. of corn oil
1 tsp. annatto seeds
1 Anaheim chili
1 beef steak tomato
1 cup of long grain brown rice
1½ cups of low-sodium chicken broth (use vegetable broth for Vegan)
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
½ tsp. Kosher salt
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 Tbs. tomato paste
¼ tsp. black pepper
pinch lime zest
1 Tbs. lime juice
½ cup of freshly chopped cilantro
1. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet.
2. Process the seeds into a powder in a spice grinder.
3. Put the corn oil into the small skillet and add the annatto seeds.
4. Bring the oil to a boil and then remove the skillet from the heat.
5. Let the seeds steep for half an hour and pour the oil through a fine meshed sieve to remove the seeds.
Tip: You will lose about a teaspoon of oil that will be absorbed by the seeds. Discard the seeds.
Note: Keep an eye on the seeds while they are in the oil. If they have turned black, discard the batch and start again.
6. Roast the chili 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 for other recipes 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 eight minutes. This had the same effect as blanching them.
Note: Roast the tomato for eight minutes and the chilies for about 15 minutes, turning frequently.
7. Put the blackened chili into a plastic bag to steam.
Tip: This make the skin easier to remove.
8. Peel the tomato and remove the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and put them in a bowl.
Tip: Place a fine mesh sieve over a small bowl and scrape the seeds into the sieve. 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. If there is any tomato or chili liquid left on the cutting mat, transfer it to the bowl.
9. When the chili is cool enough to handle, peel, seed and chop it into small pieces. Put them in the same bowl as the tomatoes.
10. In a medium-sized pot, add rice and 1 Tbs. of the annatto oil. Cook the rice, stirring constantly until the grains start to brown.
11. Add the chicken broth to the rice and bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Stir and cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and keep the pot covered for 5 more minutes.
12. While the rice is cooking, heat the second tablespoon of corn oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions with the salt for 10 minutes, until translucent and starting to brown.
Tip: You want to use a pan that is large enough to hold both the rice and sauce without difficulty.
13. Pull the onions to the sides of the pan and add the garlic and tomato paste to the hole in the center. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste is starting to darken.
14. Stir in the tomato/chili mixture and the spices to the pan.
Note: Cumin and coriander powders, pepper and lime zest.
15. Cook on medium high for another minute or two.
16. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Tip: If the sauce seems too dry add one tablespoon of water or broth.
17. Fluff the rice in the pot.
18. Just before serving, mix the cooked rice, lime juice, and most of the cilantro into the pan with the tomato sauce.
19. Adjust the seasoning to taste and fold the ingredients together until the rice is well coated.
20. Serve immediately with a cilantro garnish.
21. (Optional) Put extra cilantro and lime wedges on table to sprinkle over rice as individuals choose.