Technique drawn from Mel’s Kitchen Café
I am making Jan’s birthday dinner of chicken mole and drunken beans. We are having company so I decided to add a rice dish. Jan is pushing me to use more “low glycemic” starches in my diet so I made it with brown rice.
My other three dishes were spectacular successes—chicken, beans and a salad. The rice was the definite wall flower of the dinner—not bad, but it suffered in comparison. It would have been better with white rice.
The secret to a good flavored rice is not to dump all of the ingredients into the pot and cook them all together. If you do not have exactly the right amount of liquid for your amount of rice, you either end up with crunchy or soggy rice. 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. Annatto seeds are used in 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. You may also grind them with a mortar and pestle.
Karl’s Mexican Brown Rice
1½ cup of long grain brown rice
2 cups water (or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth for Vegan)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. annatto seeds
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
½ tsp. black pepper
2½ Tbs. of corn oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced fine
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 Jalapeño pepper, diced finely
1 Serrano pepper, diced finely
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 beef steak tomato, diced
½ cup water (or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth for Vegan)
1 Tbs. lime juice
½ cup of freshly chopped cilantro
1. Put the rice in a rice cooker and start it.
Tip: You may boil rice in a regular pot, but a rice cooker is worth every penny and is a very easy way to always have perfect rice.
Note: Brown rice takes about 25% more liquid to cook than white rice.
2. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet.
3. Grind the annatto seeds mortar and pestle as finely as you can.
Note: Do not put annatto seeds directly into a bladed spice grinder. They are extremely hard and will destroy the blades.
4. Put the cumin, coriander, annatto powder, oregano, and pepper in a spice grinder and process the spices into a powder.
5. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and chop them into small pieces.
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.
6. Put the tomatoes into the bowl with the jelly and reserve for later.
7. Put the corn oil into the large pan and, 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.
8. Add the peppers and continue sautéing until the vegetables are soft, about another 4-5 minutes.
9. Pull the onions to the sides of the pan and add the garlic and tomato paste to the hole in the center.
10. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste is starting to darken.
11. Add the spice mixture and heat it for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Tip: This is called “blooming” the spices and can make a big difference in the final flavor of your dish.
12. Add the chopped tomatoes and all of its liquid.
13. Use the liquid to deglaze the pan.
14. Add the water/broth and bring the pan to a boil over high heat.
15. Stir and cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 10-20 minutes.
16. When the rice has finished cooking, fold it into the tomato/chili mixture in the pan.
Tip: You want to fold the mixture enough to coat all of the rice without mashing the grain into a mush.
17. Just before serving, fold in the lime juice and most of the cilantro.
18 . Serve immediately with a cilantro garnish.
Tip: (Optional) Put extra cilantro and lime wedges on table to sprinkle over rice as individuals choose.