Mexican Rice

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.   Published September 1, 2004.

Because the spiciness of jalapeños varies from chile to chile, we try to control the heat by removing the ribs and seeds (the source of most of the heat) from those chiles that are cooked in the rice. Use an ovensafe pot about 12 inches in diameter so that the rice cooks evenly and in the time indicated. The pot’s depth is less important than its diameter; we’ve successfully used both a straight-sided sauté pan and a Dutch oven. Whichever type of pot you use, it should have a tight-fitting, ovensafe lid. Vegetable broth can be substituted for chicken broth.

Ingredients

2 ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces), cored and quartered (or 1 14.5oz can of tomatoes, undrained)
1 medium onion , preferably white, peeled, trimmed of root end,and quartered
3 medium jalapeño chiles
2 cups long grain white rice (or long-grain brown rice, BUT SEE BOLD NOTES)
1/3 cup canola oil
4 cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth) (2 1/2 cups for brown rice)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime , cut into wedges for serving

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Process tomatoes and onion in food processor until smooth and thoroughly pureed, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl if necessary. Transfer mixture to liquid measuring cup; you should have 2 cups (if necessary, spoon off excess so that volume equals 2 cups). Remove ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños and discard; mince flesh and set aside. Mince remaining jalapeño, including ribs and seeds; set aside.
  2. Place rice in large fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear, about 1 1/2 minutes. Shake rice vigorously in strainer to remove all excess water.
  3. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed ovensafe 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven with tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, 1 to 2 minutes. Drop 3 or 4 grains rice in oil; if grains sizzle, oil is ready. Add rice and fry, stirring frequently, until rice is light golden and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and seeded minced jalapeños; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in pureed tomatoes and onions, chicken broth, tomato paste, and salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cover pan and transfer to oven; bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes. (FOR BROWN RICE: 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring well after every 30 minutes.)
  4. Stir in cilantro and reserved minced jalapeño with seeds to taste. Serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately.

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