I’m a creative person. I love trying new things, experimenting, and just creating. I try to carry this over into the practical realm by channeling my creativity into cooking. This was somewhat of a shock to Alan in our early days of marriage, as I don’t often use recipes, and if I do, I tend to modify at will. For my engineer husband, who equates safety and security in the kitchen with the predictable results a precise recipe provides, this was dangerous territory. His mother’s cherished egg dish suddenly appearred at the table with a sprinkling of carmelized onion and sauteed mushrooms. Blasphemy!
These days, almost two years into our marriage, he’s learned to roll with the punches, enjoy a little improvisation, and NEVER to say at the table that something should have been done differently. The appropriate time for criticism is later. The appropriate time for affirmation is when a beautifully prepared dish lands on the table in front of you.
This week, we roasted a little carne asada to go with a quick homemade mexican rice, and usually would add some cuban style black beans to wrap up in tortillas. Instead, we went with some refried beans we had on hand, and made it work. Alternating the addition of chips, salsa, and/or quesadillas provides enough options for a week’s worth of yummy. Check out the base recipe for Mexican Rice below, modified from Amuse Bouche and the fabulous folks at America’s Test Kitchen. Modify at will. 🙂
This recipe makes enough for about 8 side dish or burrito servings.
4 Medium ripe tomato (about 14 ounces) cored and quartered
1 medium onion (white or yellow), peeled, quartered.
3 jalepeno chillies (I toss in a couple whole dried, soaked chiles if don’t have the fresh ones, take them out after it’s cooked)
2 cup of long grain white rice
about 1/3 cup of canola oil
5-6 medium garlic cloves, minced (feel free to go heavy on these)
2 cups, low sodium chicken broth (I go veggie here)
2 TBS tomato paste
about 1tsp salt
1/2 cup minced cilantro leaves (umm…not me. cilantro=not my friend)
1-2 limes cut into wedges for serving
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350F.
Process tomato and onion in food processor or blender until smooth, scrape down bowl if necessary. You are looking for this to measure 2 cup of liquid ingredient when done, if it isn’t 2 full cups, use broth to make up the difference or better yet, use more fresh tomato.
Remove the ribs and seeds form 2-3 of the jalepenos, mince the flesh and set aside. (If using one jalepeno to pass around as garnish and heat, mince the third WITH the seed and ribs).
Place the rice in a large fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Shake it to remove excess water..
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe 12-inch straight sided pan or a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat (If you have neither, use a regular sauté pan or frying pan and transfer to a covered oven safe dish later) for 1 – 2 minutes. Drop in 3 -4 grains of rice in the oil. if the grains sizzle, the oil is ready. Add rice and fry, stirring frequently until it starts to turn a bit golden. Be careful not to burn. Takes about 6 or 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and the seeded jalepenos; cook, stirring constantly until fragrant about 2 minutes. Stir in the puréed tomatoes and onions, the chicken broth, tomato paste and salt; increase the heat to medium-high and bring this to a boil. At this stage either cover the pan and move it to the oven or transfer to the lidded oven safe dish. Bake until liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender about 30 – 35 minutes. Stir the dish thoroughly after 15 minutes.
Since this dish was served to some who didn’t want cilantro nor the hotter jalepenos, I passed a dish around with the cilantro, limes and extra jalepeno. At the minimum, squirt a good amount of lime juice over the rice. Serves about 8, can halve the recipe for a smaller amount.