Yes, this plate of Cheesy Enchiladas in Molé is scrumptous!
However, the star of the show in today's post is the side dish in the upper right hand corner of the plate: Carmen's Mexican Rice.
I've written frequently about my ex-mother-in-law, Carmen, and how she influenced my Mexican cooking skills and palate. One side I learned very early in the process was Mexican Rice.
It's a staple of most south-of-the-border meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Served with beans of any sort, rice and beans is a complete protein. In fact, rice and beans is a fabulous vegetarian/gluten-free option. You'll find recipes for beans and rice all over southern and Latino cooking sites on the web. Such an amazing and healthy combination.
Anyway, I digress.
Many years ago, a younger Mimi, husband, and new baby visited Carmen's homestead in Grand Island, Nebraska. Her mother still lived in the same house where the family was raised. Imagine the curiosity aroused when a "gringa" showed up and actually volunteered to help with dinner preparations!
I remember uncles, aunties, and Grandma Garcia (the matriarch) watching over my shoulder as I confidently whipped up a batch of rice to serve for the evening meal. Nods of approval and Spanish spoken praises were received and well-appreciated. Maybe their beloved Anthony hadn't done so bad after all!
Nevertheless, Mexican Rice is so easy to put together. Carmen's recipe included onions as the only vegetable. Peas, carrots, green beans were not in the mix. And Mexican Rice is inexpensive. Paired with beans, flour tortillas, grated cheese and a side salad, this dish is very frugal.
This is my favorite rice cooking vessel. It's an old Guardian Ware aluminum pot that belonged to one of my grandmothers. Both used Guardian Ware, and I was the lucky recipient of this one.
I like it because it's sturdy. The walls are thick. The lid fits well and retains heat nicely. Every pot of rice I conjure up comes out perfect no matter the recipe.
If you don't have one of these handy, rice is successfully cooked in an enameled cast iron pot or a heavy pot will a tight fitting lid.
Before you begin, measure out your ingredients:
- 1 3/4 cups of low-sodium chicken stock or water mixed with 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1 medium onion, cut in half and then into chunks
- 1-2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
Over medium-high heat, add 1-2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil. (I like olive oil.)
Once the oil is hot, add the rice. Begin to stir so all the rice is coated with oil.
Continue to cook until some of the rice is translucent and other kernels are lightly browned.
Add the chopped onion to the rice. Cook for a minute or two until the onions begin to wilt and become lightly browned.
Add the chicken stock or water and tomato sauce. Careful - the liquid may steam and spatter.
Add the oregano and garlic salt. Stir to distribute everything. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce temperature to a simmer and cover.
Let the rice simmer for 13 minutes. Once it's done, immediately remove from the heat and set aside to let the rice finish cooking. You can put the pot in a slow oven (185°F) to finish cooking for 15-20 minutes to keep it warm before serving.
You can lift the lid and fluff up the rice, but I usually don't. My daughter tells me the "money bite" is the rice, onions, and oregano that settles to the top.
Now, If I'd had my act together, I would have remembered to take a picture when the rice was finished. Must have been hungry this day and in a rush to get dinner on the table. Ooops . . .
Carmen's Mexican Rice is awesome served alongside Huevos Rancheros. My mother used a version in her recipe for Retro Pork Chops with Spanish Rice, Peas, and Potatoes.
My young family would eat leftover rice, refried beans, tamales, and warm tortillas for breakfast. Ah, the good old days when I didn't have to worry about all those carbs and calories!