Thursday, September 2, 2010

0 Recipe #167: Mexican Rice

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Here's an authentic recipe for Mexican rice. A staple of Mexican cuisine, this side dish makes a wonderful accompaniment to almost any kind of Mexican entrée -- fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tamales, etc.

Mexican Rice

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. uncooked brown Basmati (long grain) rice
1 large fresh bay leaf
1 c. yellow onion, peeled & diced (about 1/2 medium-sized onion)
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (about 2 large cloves)
1/2 Tbsp. jalapeño pepper, seeded, ribbed, & finely minced (about 1/2 small jalapeño pepper)
2 c. hot water
2 Tbsp. (1/8 c.) low-sodium vegetable broth (optional)
2 Tbsp. (1/8 c.) red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. (1/8 c.) green bell pepper, finely chopped
3/4 (heaping) c. vine-ripened tomatoes (about 1 small tomato)
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. fresh (Mexican) oregano leaves, tightly packed & finely minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. red chili pepper flakes (chile de arbol)
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lime (or lemon) juice
1/2 c. Monterey Jack (or cheddar) cheese, shredded (optional)
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Directions: Heat olive oil on low in a large (i.e., 12-13"), deep sauté pan. Add the uncooked rice & brown for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the rice is completely coated with the olive oil. Let rice brown but do not burn. (Browning the rice seals its exterior to keep it from getting mushy when the water is added.) Then add bay leaf, onions, & garlic, & jalapeño, & sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in hot water (you'll hear it sizzle when it hits the pan), vegetable broth (if using), red & green bell peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper, & red chili pepper flakes. Thoroughly combine ingredients. Turn up heat to high & bring to a rolling boil. Then immediately reduce heat back to low, quickly cover pan with a lid, & simmer for 20 minutes. IMPORTANT: To cook the rice perfectly & maximize its fluffiness, do NOT, under any circumstances, lift the lid & peek at the rice while it's cooking. If necessary, use a clear (glass lid) so that you can watch the rice without peeking. :) Only after the 20 minutes is up should you check the rice to see if it's ready. When the rice is ready, all of the water will be absorbed & each rice grain will be split open. Rice should be fluffy, not dry or sauce-like. If rice is still hard & the grains haven't yet split, add another 2 cups of water & cook for another 15-20 minutes or so. (This is what I had to do. Please note that cooking time & temperature will vary from stove to stove, so adjust accordingly.) When rice is done, remove from heat. Allow rice to steam, uncovered & undisturbed, for 5-10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Stir in lime (or lemon juice) & gently fluff with a fork. Garnish with cheese (if using) & cilantro, & serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings.

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