“Lynne, don’t move the rice.” That was the grave instruction I received the first time I made Mexican rice. “No muevas el arroz.”
I was in Mexico in the central city of Guanajuato and my host, Susie, was giving me cooking lessons in the afternoons.
Fourteen years later and 2500 miles away, all of her instructions came back to me as I made a pot of this rice last night.
Molly had been talking about having it as school. It’s one of the few school lunches she’ll buy. I thought to myself, Why don’t I ever make Spanish rice?
Maybe it’s because we’ve been veering toward brown rice. Or, I’ll default to jasmine rice for stir fry and basmati for curry.
But we have tacos or burritos at least once a week, so why not add it into the rotation?
It’s a good reason to pull out the smoothie-worn blender. In each of the 3 steps, I hear Susie’s instructions in my head:
- “une diente de ajo”: the “tooth” or slender clove of garlic that gets puréed into the broth with a crescent of onion and a roma tomato and salt
- “doradito: cook the rice in vegetable oil until the grains begin to turn golden
- “no meube el arroz”: avoid the temptation to stir the rice after adding the broth.
Trust, wait and let the steam do the rest. There’s a subtlety to this rice dish, where every ingredient in proportion and every step matters. I follow Susie’s instructions to the letter.
Here in the deep winter of Oregon, this simple side dish lures me back to the place, the people and a time that mark my life.
I hope it sparks a good memory for you, too.
This recipe makes a good quantity of Mexican rice, because I figure if you're going to make a pot of rice, you might as well make enough for leftovers. Try it for breakfast with an egg and avocado or in your lunchtime burrito.
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2- inch wedge onion
- 1 roma tomato, quartered
- 3 cups chicken broth homemade or organic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
- Combine the garlic, onion, tomato, broth and salt into a blender and blend on high until liquified.
- Heat the oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the rice and cook, stirring now and then, until about half of the rice is golden colored.
Slowly pour in the broth, guarding yourself from the steam. Stir once and put on the lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes without disturbing the lid.
- Check the rice, and if all the liquid is absorbed, remove it from the heat, cover and let it steam until ready to serve.
To add color and more veggie value, add 1/2 cup of frozen vegetables (peas or corn or that mix of carrots and peas–if your kids will accept them) into the pot to steam once the rice is cooked.