Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

10 Years in the Making... Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice at Home

One of the biggest frustrations I've always had is that I couldn't master the technique and style of Spanish or Mexican rice.  Sometimes called "arroz rojo" (red rice), it's  a style of rice you see in any Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant in this area.  While I've found the flavors to work in many recipes I've tried, I never could get that "dry" (non-starchy) texture just right.  After over 10 years of trying different recipes, I've hit rice nirvana! 

How did I do it?  A LOT of patience and time.  This isn't a shortcut recipe, but I promise, the payoff is rice you would swear came from a Tex-Mex restaurant.  I've summarized several key steps you HAVE to do for success.  The rice will come out non-starchy, a "dry" texture, with a decent depth of flavor.  Vary it up from there with the addition of veggies and serve with your favorite Mexican-style meat.

Success tips:
- Use regular long-grain rice, NOT instant
- Rinse the rice under cold water in a colander or fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear.  This is a CRITICAL step to wash off all of the extra starch.  It will affect the final texture of the rice if you don't
- Dry the rice on a clean towel or paper towels for 5 - 10 minutes before cooking
- Saute the rice until it starts toasting (the grains start to look translucent and some have some browning)
- NO PEEKING at the rice during the 20 minutes of cooking!!

Here is a basic recipe for the rice.  The recipe is tasty without the Sazon, but feel free to add in a Sazon packet if you like.  Many recipes also use frozen peas, but add after the rice has cooked so that they don't get too mushy.  Pull out the peas from the freezer when you start cooking the rice so that they thaw a bit before adding.  Happy eating!

Mexican Rice
1 cup long grain white rice
1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup diced onion (white, yellow, or red)
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (reduced sodium)
1/2 cup fresh chopped tomato (seeds and all)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 - 1 packet "Sazon" seasoning, if desired
1/2 cup frozen peas, optional

Place rice in a colandar or fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear.  (Move the rice around as you rinse to ensure all the grains are rinsed).  Should take 2 - 3 minutes.  Lay the rice out on paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to dry.  Meanwhile, dice the carrot and onion and mince the garlic.  Chop the tomatoes.  Puree the stock and tomatoes in a blender on high speed until smooth.  Set aside.  Heat a skillet or 2-quart saucepan on medium-high heat.  Add oil to coat pan evenly and heat until shimmering.  Add the rice and stir to coat.  Saute the rice, stirring frequently until it starts to look translucent and is lightly toasted.  Once rice is starting to toast, add in carrots, onions, and garlic.  Saute 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add in the tomato/stock mixture and stir.  Bring to a low boil and add in bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper, and sazon if using, to taste.  Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat (NO PEEKING!).  After 20 minutes, remove from heat but KEEP COVERED another 5 minutes.  Uncover and sprinkle on the peas if using.  Let sit 5 minutes before gently fluffing.

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