Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mexican Rice

You know that delicious Mexican rice that always comes as a side dish whenever you go out for tasty Mexican food?  It's never highlighted on the plate, but it always tastes so good?  You know what I'm talking about?  Excellent.  'Cause I've got a recipe for a pretty good homemade version of that fantastic rice side.  It's so good, you can even build your dinner around the rice, instead of the other way around! 

My aunt Lori told me about this recipe a while back, but recently I was visiting with her and she mentioned that she keeps it on hand and eats the rice with eggs in the morning.  Ummm, YUM.  I took a trip to Costa Rica with my Spanish class in high school and one of my favorite memories of that experience was their traditional rice and beans for breakfast with a side of freshly cut papaya.  I knew this would be totally different, but I loved the idea of a revisiting the rice-for-breakfast phenomenon.
i actually made this breakfasty treat for dinner...i don't usually drink beer in the mornings!
The recipe is from a website that eventually credited Cooks Illustrated as the source.  The recipe itself says it's pretty finicky, and while I didn't play around with the ingredients, I'm sure there's some room for creativity!  So enjoy this rice as a classic side, a yummy main course, or a great twist on your morning eats.

12 ounces tomatoes, very ripe and cored (or canned tomatoes work fine*)
1 medium white onion
3 medium jalapenos (honestly, I used 1 super giant-sized one -- it was huge!)
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
4 minced cloves garlic
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbls tomato paste (may omit if using canned tomatoes)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 lime

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and make sure one of your oven racks is in the middle.

Put the tomato and onion in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Transfer the tomato/onion mixture to a measuring cup and save 2 cups of the mixture.  Discard the rest or save for another day.

Remove the ribs and seeds from 2 jalapenos and discard.  Mince the jalapenos and set aside.  Mince remaining jalapeno (ribs and seeds for extra spice, but remove if you don't like spicy rice) and set aside. 

Rinse your rice in a fine mesh strainer under cold water until the water runs clear.  This is a very important step to achieving the fluffy rice that doesn't stick together.  Omit at your own peril!

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed ovensafe 12-inch saute pan or Dutch oven with a tight lid over medium heat for about two minutes.  Drop in a few grains of rice and if they sizzle, then the oil is ready to go.  Add the rice and stir until rice is lightly golden, about 6-8 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and the 2 minced jalapenos.  Cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir in the broth, tomato mixture, tomato paste (if any), and salt.  Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil.

Cover the pan and transfer to the oven to bake until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 30-35 minutes.  Stir halfway through the cooking.

When the rice is all cooked, stir in the chopped cilantro and fresh jalapeno to taste.  The recipe says to "pass with lime wedges" but I thought that was weird so I just squeezed the entire lime right into the rice.  It added a little extra freshness and zip to the rice -- so do that instead!

If you want to make this a breakfast treat (or a breakfast-for-dinner treat), cook up some eggs in your favorite way (I like mine over hard) and serve the eggs over a bowl of the steaming rice.  The rice freezes well, so you can enjoy it any way you like at your leisure. 
Makes 4-6 servings.

*Food Tip: I don't mean to be a food snob....well at least not entirely....but if you are relying on out-of-season grocery store tomatoes, you'd be WAY better off getting the canned variety.  Tomatoes from the grocery store are grown (ahem, modified) to be able to withstand long trips to their ultimate destination without rotting or bruising.  While that's a pretty interesting scientific achievement, it makes for tasteless and hard tomatoes.  Not a fan.  Either go fresh or go canned.  Seems weird...but it's true!

What restaurant eats do you wish you could recreate in your own kitchen?  Maybe I'll test some of them out!


  1. Bar la Grassa cauliflower gnocchi. If you figure that out i will be eternally grateful!

  2. Katie -- I know EXACTLY what you're talking about. I would be so impressed with myself if I could recreate that :)

  3. The breakfast burrito at Hot Plate