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The Principles of Good Rice: Mexican

May 31, 2011

As a child, I thought that rice was a particularly dissatisfying format of pasta.

If I encountered it, it tended to be white rice with no flavoring, and perhaps some butter: it’s no wonder I wasn’t a fan. My first encounter with rice I liked was at the cabin of some good friends. My friend’s father made rice with a whole lot of cheese mixed into it.

I felt a glimmer of hope.

Now, I love rice.

It’s obviously more of a “whole food” than pasta is, and it’s a wonderful foil for so many of my favorite cuisines: Afghan, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, Indian.

All of these rices are done differently and they are all really wonderful.

My son also loves rice, and I tend to surround us with the healthy things he  will eat, in many different formats and cuisines, so that he’ll learn to like different flavors.

Someone asked that I post a recipe for good Mexican rice. It’s simple but makes dinner soooo much better.

Mexican Rice

Choose Your Rice

First: choose your rice. White is fine, but why not try brown? It really does taste better, and it’s far better for you. On weeknights, we choose Uncle Ben’s instant brown rice. It takes a bit less time. I know that’s lowbrow. Judge away.

Choose Your Liquid

Next, figure out how much liquid you need to use. A rule of thumb is twice as much liquid as rice, but check the instructions for whatever rice you choose.

Once you know how much liquid to use, decide what it should be.

I generally use a combination of whatever I have around. Chicken broth is a great cooking liquid for rice, but juice from a can of tomatoes, or a glug of salsa, or the liquid from meat you’ve been stewing for the meal, or even just a spoonful of fat from cooking added to the water or broth or tomato juice or salsa will go a long way.

Additional Flavoring

Decide what other flavors you might want to incorporate. I suggest salt, a handful of chopped onion, and cumin seeds or powder. You can also add peas or corn. How zesty looking your rice can be!

Choose Your Cooking Vessel

Then, choose your pan. It will need to have a tight fitting lid. A small saucepan will do well. You are ready to start cooking.


You’ll want to “toast” the rice. Doing so will help keep the grains separate. It will reduce or remove the potential for gloppiness. It will help the texture and the flavor.

Heat some canola or safflower oil in your cooking vessel. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the handful of onions and cumin if you are using it. As the rice begins to toast, grab the liquid.

When the rice is a little toasty and smells a little like popcorn, but before it begins to burn, add the liquid. It will make a spectacular noise. If you have a child, the child may come running to see what sort of science experiment you are performing.

Add a quantity of salt to the rice and liquid. (The rice instructions may call for butter, but is no need to add butter, because you already added oil.)

Cover the pan and bring the contents to a boil. Then reduce heat immediately to a low simmer, and cover with the pan.

If you choose to add peas or corn, do so maybe four minutes from the end of the cooking time.

Fluff the rice with a fork. Adjust salt. Serve with a complementary delicious thing.





One Comment leave one →
  1. Amy permalink
    June 6, 2011 8:21 am

    I had been suspecting that many rice recipes were quite flexible, but I definitely hadn’t thought about all those types of cooking liquid. Thanks!

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