Monday, November 15, 2010

Really Good Mexican Rice

It took me several years, and recipes tweaked, to make a satisfying Mexican-style rice. I always order rice when I go out for Mexican food, because I love comparing and contrasting one restaurant version to another. Everyone puts their own twist on it - some have chunks of tomatoes, some chunks of onion, some both - or none. Some add peas. My version is heavy on tomato flavor, and I always use brown rice, because I prefer its taste and texture to white.  I always add peas, because peas are the bee's knees. And a bouillion cube (preferably the Mexican kind, which you can find pretty much everywhere) is not to be underestimated. The real trick here, though, is to toast the uncooked rice in the pan, before adding any liquid, way longer than seems necessary, or even prudent. You may think it's burning, but it's just developing that toasty, nutty, hard-to-put-your-finger-on flavor that makes this rice Really Good Mexican Rice. Trust.

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Ingredients: 8-10

1/2  small yellow onion, diced
1 large (or 2 small) clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 Mexican bouillion cube
1 tsp cumin
1 cup uncooked rice
1/2 cup tomato SAUCE (homemade is good, but canned is really good)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)

Sautee onion, garlic and bouillion in all the oil over medium heat until barely soft. Add all the uncooked brown rice and cumin, and stir every 30 seconds, for about 4 minutes.  A little more/less won't hurt. You may see the bottom of the pan start to brown, don't panic.  Add tomato sauce and stir well with a wooden spoon, scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. There will be a fair amount of sizzle. Add water and stir again. Bring the whole shebang up to a boil, then cover and  reduce to a simmer for about 40 minutes (20 if you're using white rice). Remove from heat and pour the frozen peas right over the top, then cover again and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and devour.

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