04 February 2011
Mexican rice was a mystery to me until I had a lesson from my friend Julia, who came by her technique honestly. Julia claims to be not much of a cook, but I've had some mighty tasty things out of her kitchen! And until I had my rice lesson from her years ago, my so-called Mexican rice was awful, very wet and tomato-y, definitely not authentic. I've made a few changes over the years, but the technique remains the same. I leave out the garlic these days, but you don't have to. Just throw the whole cloves in the pan with the rice and oil, and remove them later after they've worked their magic.
Where a lot of people go wrong (IMHO) with Mexican rice is in the seasoning. They think any food called Mexican needs to be full of spices. But that is, according to Julia, "totally unnecessary!" Think about it. You need some variety on your plate, something mild to balance out the heat and spice of everything else.
I've found the only way to get consistent results with any rice recipe is to use the same rice and the same pan each time--especially when making a large quantity. I perfected my recipe using Lundberg organic long-grain white rice and a 5 1/2-quart Le Creuset Round French Oven. So once the recipe comes out to your liking, always use the same rice and the same pan.
This amount of rice will feed a crowd, but I make this amount every time. Just refrigerate or freeze the leftovers, and reheat in the microwave.
Mexican Rice - Sopa de Arroz
(Makes 20 servings)
7 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth or water, if you're vegetarian)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 2-pound bag medium- or long-grain white rice (I use Lundberg organic long grain)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (I use Muir Glen organic; it is THE best!)
1 In 3-quart saucepan, bring broth and salt to a simmer while browning the rice. The amount of liquid called for varies between brands. My preferred brand calls for a ratio of 1 1/2 cups liquid to 1 cup rice, and I think that ratio would be best with any brand.
2 In 5 1/2-quart pot, heat olive oil and stir in rice (straight from the package--do not rinse). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until rice is lightly browned. This may take 20 to 30 minutes. Throw in a few whole cloves of garlic at some point, if you like. They can be removed before the next step or before serving.
3 Gradually stir tomato sauce into rice and cook for a minute or two, then add broth to rice. Bring to a full boil and stir just once. Put the lid on tightly, reduce heat to the very lowest setting and leave undisturbed for the length of time specified on your rice bag, usually about 20 minutes.
4 If this is your first time making this, take a really quick peek to see if liquid has evaporated and rice is done. Cover and let stand, off heat, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Garnish, if you like, and serve.