Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Perfect Mexican rice

I have some sort of mental block against making rice. I won't try to explain it because it defies logic. But let's just say that after one particularly trying incident where I re-made jasmine rice THREE times while a guest waited for coconut curry, I accepted the truth. I am terrible at making rice.

We don't have a rice maker. I'd rather the space be taken up by a food processor and apparently rice and I are just not compatible, even with mechanical intervention (I grew up with a rice cooker - it did not help). I gave in and started buying frozen packets of cooked rice at Trader Joe's, and the problem was solved.

Every once in a while I attempt rice, with no expectation of success and no fear of failure. It's rice, after all. Not world domination. If it sucks, we'll eat something else.

So far, this recipe works every time.

perfect mexican rice
{perfect mexican rice}

I realize rice, even spiced up with chili powder and garlic, is not the most thrilling topic, but I like to have a few staples down so I'm making note of this for future use. And I have been working on my regular rice technique, sporadically, and I'm making progress. I will not be defeated by a grain.

Perfect Mexican rice (original recipe here, makes 4 servings - scales up well)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder*
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
Salt, to taste (I like 1 teaspoon - this will depend on how salty your broth is as well)
Cilantro, chopped (optional - I like it sprinkled over the top)

:: Heat oil in a 2 or 3 qt pot over medium heat and add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is toasted and barely golden. Toss in the cumin and chili powder and cook for a minute.

:: Stir in the onions and garlic and cook until tender. Stir in the tomato sauce and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. I find that sometimes the rice cooks more quickly, so I check for doneness each time I stir.

:: Remove from heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes, tossing with a fork every once in a while. This will allow some of the excess moisture to steam away. The rice will still not be nearly as dry as what you get in a restaurant, but I personally love it this way. If you want it dry, make it a day ahead, refrigerate overnight and then reheat the next day. It will be perfect.


* Know your chili powder! When chili powder is mentioned in a recipe, they usually mean the dark red variety that is smoky and less spicy than some of the brighter red types. You can use whatever you like in your recipes, but if you have a bright red powder start very light on the measurements and then work your way up. They are often much spicier. And cayenne is in a different class altogether!


29 comments:

  1. I'll talk rice with you any day! I grew up with a rice cooker and I own my own rice cooker. But my mom still comments on the way I make my rice. Not soft enough to her. But I use organic long grain, that might be why my rice turns out differently. Here is another alternative to cooking rice on the stove top if you are ever curious:

    http://www.amazon.com/Thai-Sticky-Rice-Steamer-basket/dp/B00019MRRY

    It says it's for sticky rice, but you can cook regular jasmine rice this way too. The taste is different, very light, and the grain is separated when cooked, not clumpy or mushed together like rice can sometimes turn out in a rice cooker. :)

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    1. Interesting! I think the kitchen work around that I've been doing is similar to that - I've been experimenting with using a mesh strainer on top of a pot. I'll have to check it out.

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    2. And I completely understand your frustration with rice. There's a certain art to making the perfect steamed rice. Fluffy, not too separated, not too clumpy, evenly cooked all around. Rice has been a staple in my childhood diet and I never thought there could be an acquired taste for it. But I have skipped out on rice that not cooked to my preference (usually the stove-top uncle ben's type of rice, I really can't even call it rice). And vise versa, my mom has skipped out on rice that I've cooked because I didn't make it the right way. So, you have plenty reason to post about making rice.

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  2. My inability to make rice is legendary. I don't know what it is, but I always burn it, mush it, or leave it hard like pebbles. I have plans to buy a rice maker, thinking it would help if I was out of the equation, but your news that it doesn't help isn't encouraging. We pretty much live off those TJ rice bags. It's the only way my family will eat rice I've prepared.

    It's weird, because I cant truly bake or cook anything else, and baking alone is such an exact science. I have no idea what I am doing wrong!

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    1. Exactly. Burned or mushy. Those have been my options. And likewise, it clearly isn't a general cooking problem.

      I guess I'm lucky that we don't eat very much rice? Or maybe we don't eat much rice because of this problem.

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  3. I hear ya. I was horrible at making rice. That is until I got a hold of Cook's Illustrated 'How To Cook Rice and Grains' document. I'll email it to you. It has saved my rice so many times now!

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    1. Thanks, Sally! That's so sweet of you. I'll check it out.

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  4. I totally had the same problem! I could not make rice so I just avoided it until my now-husband taught me when we were dating:

    1) Put 2:1 water:rice (or what the package says if it's different) in a pot.
    2) Bring to a boil, stir, and put the lid on.
    3) Turn it down to minimum and leave it for twenty-ish minutes(forty-ish for brown rice). No stirring.

    If you take the lid off and it's still making sizzling/bubbling noises, leave it for another couple minutes. Once it's quiet when the lid comes off, turn the element off and wait for the rest of dinner to be ready. Then you can either serve it right from the pot or fluff it with a fork in a serving bowl.

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    1. See, when I do this I either end up with mushy rice or a whole bunch of burned rice crusted to the bottom of the pan. I would blame my stove but it's been like this with every stove I've had!

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    2. I do mine very close to the same way, only I was taught to rinse, rinse, rinse until the water comes out clear (to wash off all the starch), then put the cooking water in. I boil it until it is reduced below the rice - you'll start to see it make bubble pockets (you'll understand when you see). Then I put the lid on, turn it off and don't touch it for at least 20 minutes. Perfect every time. Be sure not to have it on HIGH...Med High works well. You can even reduce it once it starts to boil so as not to burn it.

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  5. I love my rice cooker - we use it at least twice a week. It also cooks quinoa, and I heard you can steam vegetables in it. I think it's a worthy investment (and they are really inexpensive).

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    1. Everyone who has a rice cooker loves one but I'm so maxed out on kitchen gadgets! I just don't know where I would put it in our little apartment.

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  6. i absolutely hate making rice! I always burn it/undercook/turn it to mush. My boyfriend is the official rice maker in the house.

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    1. At least there is one of you! I should make D attempt it and see if he's better so I can pass off that duty.

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  7. I think it's so common to have problems with rice. Even Francis Lam admits to not always being able to do it right. This is the method of his that I have used, and it works for me: http://www.gilttaste.com/stories/5017-how-to-make-perfect-rice-every-time.
    I first read about it here, in his recipe for koshary - which I think is funnier, incidentally: http://www.gourmet.com/food/2009/03/koshary-recipe.
    "- Warm up a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Give it a few nice glugs of olive oil. Don’t be stingy. Throw in your cinnamon and roll it around in there until you can smell it. Now throw in your rice and stir it around. Add your spices and toast all this together, stirring, until the spices are all aromatic and maybe half the rice has turned opaque. Pour in your water; it will probably boil immediately. If not, make it boil. Then cover it and drop it in the oven. Pull it out 13 minutes later. If you’re one of those freaky people who can cook rice perfectly on the stove, do whatever it is that you do. Weirdo."
    nugicalmusings.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Rice in the oven is genius! I make arroz con pollo successfully but I guess I've never really thought about that as being "rice", which is weird because it totally is mostly rice and it cooks in the oven. Maybe my stove is the problem ...

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    2. I've always had issues cooking rice too until I tried baking it. It was so easy and turned out great! Definitely give it a try.

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  8. I've never had a problem with rice - just lucky, I guess? I'd never consider a rice maker just because I value counter space and like you, I'd go for a food processor instead :) I love the ide of a mexican rice and this looks so good.

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    Replies
    1. You are clearly doing something right! Or maybe some people are just meant to make rice and others aren't?

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  9. Recently I've been considering the rice-maker purchase...But I am inherently against any kitchen appliance that, firstly, plugs into the wall, and secondly, is used for only one type of food. I am loving all these tips in the comments however. Maybe rice cooked the old fashion way deserves another chance.

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    1. Weeeell ... I'll admit to a fairly large addiction to kitchen appliances that plug in. But I'm limited on space, so I have to choose my priorities. Waffle irons? Yes, please. Rice maker? Not so much.

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  10. Ha! I don't believe you people there's such thing like a rice cooker! Rice is the easiest thing to do! For one cup of rice you put two cups of water (i put one finger more water to be sure), a little olive oil, you put the lid on and let it to low until there's no water left. And add some salt and pepper! ;)

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  11. Yum, this looks delicious!

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  12. this is similar to the recipe my fiance's grandmother gave me.. over the phone while we lived in ny (we're in sf, now). it took awhile to perfect because i didn't have the exact measurements. i will definitely try adding garlic the next time though <3

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  13. Made this for a party on Saturday and it turned out great!! Thanks for the recipe! :)

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  14. Rice is so easy to make! This is a fail proof way that I make perfect steamed rice every time! Start by placing your hand at the bottom of a pot and fill with cold water til the water just covers your hand. Then place 2 cups of rice and place over high heat with the lid placed on top. You need to stir it a few times to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom, but it comes out so perfect and fluffy every time!

    Definitley trying this recipe though! =D

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    1. This recipe is similar to what I make but if you want to change it up a bit instead of the tomato sauce put green chili dip in and it is a delicious twist on this recipe.

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    ReplyDelete

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