In the past I have declared my undying love for Rick Bayless; well, his Master Chef cooking skills anyway. After all, he won the first Top Chef Master competition, cooking Mexican food. I’ve prepared a few dishes out of his Mexican Kitchen cookbook, and let me say, it’s more than worth having. Quite a few of the recipes are of entertaining quality; the Chipotle Peanut Mole is doable and I have wowed hungry people with it. But I’m here to write about Mexican rice. I’ve had good rice and I’ve had been sitting in a steam table too long mushy rice. Rick’s recipe for rice is really good but the red rice calls for making your own salsa. I was looking for a way to make amazing red Mexican rice with a little less work. I believe I have it.
I love the technique for cooking the rice; it’s a little like risotto. You toast the rice (must be medium grain) on top of the stove with oil and chopped onion. It’s finished in the oven and baked until it’s almost done. The rice has a slightly firm bite, though cooked through, and the grains are separate. Wonderful! You might have to really look at the shelves for medium grain rice; long grain really dominates the scene. I use Hinode brand Calrose rice, because, frankly that is what’s available here. And instead of making salsa I use Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chiles, which comes in a 10 ounce can. It’s available in mild and original; I use mild as I don’t want to eat blast furnace rice (yes, an exaggeration)!
Great Mexican Rice
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups medium grain rice
4 teaspoons oil (I prefer olive)
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped fine (white is authentic)
2 cans Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chiles, mild or original – your choice, pureed in a blender or food processor
1 ½ cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
½ cup chopped cilantro (but not if you hate cilantro)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large heavy sauté pan or dutch oven (no non-stick pans please) heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and rice and stir around to coat with oil and get onion to sweating. Cook to toast rice, a little color is more than fine. Stir in tomato and chile puree well, then add salt and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, stir well, then cover and bake in oven for 25 minutes. Taste a grain; if it feels almost done put the cover back on and let it sit out for 5 minutes or more to finish cooking. It should be perfectly done. If when you test it it’s a little chalky, put it back in the oven and give it another 5 minutes. Repeat. After letting it sit, add cilantro and fluff with a fork. Then enjoy.
I have also made this rice without the salsa. It’s very wonderful also. The only real problem with this dish is that it’s hard to stop eating it.