Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mexican Rice

Primavera by Santana
A beautiful song.  Enchanting lyrics with a gorgeous latin beat.  Carlos Santana has written a beautiful song about the rebirth and new beginnings that come with spring.  It's well worth your time to google the translation.  Sheer poetry.  Measuring in at 6 minutes and 22 seconds long, this song gives you plenty of time to get your cha-cha on!  What are you waiting for?  

Happy Cinco de Mayo!
I know it's a bit early but I wanted to share this with you in plenty of time for you to include it in your party planning.  I'd have to say it's pretty authentic.  I learned how to make Mexican Rice literally at the elbow of a former sister-in-law who is from Pueblo, Mexico.  She made such wonderful rice, I had to know how to do it myself.  She also made fabulous lemon/limeade.  I wish I had listened closer to how she made that!  Alas, I'm happy that I at least have the rice down!

The best compliment I ever received on this recipe was while I was doing an internship in a commercial kitchen.  I heard one of the chefs asking if anyone knew how to make Mexican Rice.  There were some vague replies.  I, the rookie, realized that this might be a chance for me to show that I could do something more than arrange cold cuts attractively on a buffet platter.  So I stepped forward and said that I had had plenty of experience making Mexican Rice, just not professionally.  That I had made it for my family for years.  The chef looked at me, a little skeptically, and asked me how I made "my version."  I explained that the first thing I did was toast the rice in some oil in a skillet.  I began to continue my procedure but he interrupted me and said that that was all he needed to hear.  He gave me the task to make two huge buffet pans of rice.  As the finished product was ready for sampling, everyone came to test my efforts.  Lots of compliments all around - smiles of approval.  But nothing made me happier than when this mexican kid took a forkful and then pronounced it better than his mama's - as he proceeded to serve himself a small bowl.  It was really a rewarding moment!

The reason the chef only needed to hear that I toasted the rice first is that many people forget that part.  And that important step is where the full flavor of the dish comes from.  It's not a light toasting as in the risotto recipe from a couple weeks ago.  You want a full toast on the rice - lovely browns all through the mix.  But not burnt.  Never burnt.  Your kitchen will smell wonderfully nutty.

I used fresh tomatoes but if you don't have any on hand, a 15 ounce can of tomatoes substitutes beautifully for this.  Also, I've found that the presence of peas can be a hotly contested addition.  It appears to be a personal preference.  But I was taught to add them and so I do!  I think they add some needed fresh color.  What do you think - will you serve yours with or without peas?

Mexican Rice
Serves 8
Printable Recipe Card
2 c. rice
2 T. vegetable oil
1 clove garlic
1 onion, quartered
3 medium tomatoes, quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
3 c. chicken stock
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 c. frozen peas
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
lime wedges, optional

Place the garlic, onion, and tomatoes in a food processor and blend until almost smooth.  It's alright if there's some chunks of onion left here and there.  Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet.  Make sure that the skillet has a tight fitting lid that goes with it.  You'll need it later.

When the oil is heated, add the rice and stir to completely coat with the oil.  Toast the rice, stirring often and then shaking the rice back out to cover the bottom of the skillet.  Go ahead and let it get some brown on it.  You'll smell a lovely toasty aroma.  It'll look like this when it's done.
After the rice is all toasty, add the tomato and onion mixture to the pan along with the chicken stock and diced carrots.  If you're using fresh peas, I'd go ahead and add them with the diced carrots at this point as well.  Give it all a stir to mix well.  Add the salt and stir again.  Bring the mixture to a boil. Once you're to a boil, put a lid on the pan and turn the heat down to low.  Let the rice cook, UNDISTURBED, for at least 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, go ahead and take off the lid and see how it's doing.  Chances are it'll still be a little moist and at an al dente state.  Perfect!  Add the frozen peas and stir.  Taste and add additional salt, if needed.  Go ahead and cook the rest of the way with the lid off.  If the rice isn't quite done and there doesn't seem to be any extra moisture, continue to cook with the lid on.  

To serve, add a large handful of chopped fresh cilantro and stir to distribute.  Save some for some garnish as well.  Serve with a lime wedge.  Squeeze that juice over the top and dig in!


  1. This is so delicious!! I totally agree about the peas- I love the color they add and I like the way they pop in my teeth. Receta excelente, mi amigo!

    1. Hey Team Cabbage! I'm glad you enjoyed the rice and I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your approval! You're completely right about the textural appeal of the peas - little pops of freshness!