I suppose the title of this post sounds a bit unusual, but this is literally about the side of rice that you get in Mexican restaurants, either inside your burrito, or as part of fajitas or as a side of any other dish that you order. Various restaurants have their own versions, of course. Taco Bell has a highly seasoned dry and reddish looking rice, whereas Chipotle simply has pure white rice laced with butter and lime and cilantro. The fancier OTB/Mexico have their take too.
This version is actually a combination of various elements that I personally like, and also has some origins in a recipe called 'Spanish Rice' that I learnt several years ago in a cooking class. I am posting this seperately since I feel this deserves a seperate mention, and is a dish that can hold its own. But this is definitely a precursor to my upcoming post for Vegetarian Fajitas/Burritos.
The recipe itself is pretty simple, using the basic flavours you would find in Mexican cooking - the peppers providing the main flavour here, and chili powder or ready made taco seasoning takes care of the spice aspect. Fresh ingredients will always result in a supreme creation. An optional pat of butter will add some richness. The detailed recipe is as follows -
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 onion chopped
1 tomato chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1-2 Serrano peppers whole or jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Taco seasoning (any brand) or
1 Tbsp ready made chili powder*
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp oil/butter
1.5 cups rice
*Chili powder here refers to a ready made spice blend and not just cayenne pepper. If you do not have access to taco seasoning or chili seasoning, just substitute with 1 tsp cayenne pepper and 1 tsp of roasted cumin/jeera powder. Roasting will give a smoky flavour as found in seasoning blends
1) Chop the garlic, onion, tomato and peppers and set aside. Use either whole Serrano/jalapeno peppers or split into two pieces. If you are using Indian chillies, use whole ones according to your taste or heat level.
2) Heat 1 tsp oil in a thick sauce pan or vessel. You can omit the oil if you wish if you are using a non-stick pot. Add the onion and garlic and lightly saute' till they soften. Add the green chill peppers in whole. Add the green bell peppers and saute for sometime, then add tomatoes.
3) The whole mixture in the pot will be very aromatic. Add the seasonings. Wash the rice, drain and add to this mixture. Fry for some time.
4) Add the liquid now. You will need a minimum of 3 cups of liquid for 1.5 cups rice. Add a cup of tomato sauce and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer. Cover and let the rice cook.
5) Check the rice periodically to make sure that it does not stick. You may need to add more water if the rice looks too dry, and is uncooked even after most of the liquid is absorbed. The liquid needed will depend on the quality of rice, and will differ not only according to brand, but also according to the batch of rice.
6) Once the rice grains look cooked, the rice is done. It may look slightly 'saucy' at this point, but that is ok, since it will soon be absorbed even after you turn off the heat. Check for seasonings and adjust as needed.
7) Turn off the heat. Add the chopped cilantro and lime juice and fold it in lightly in the rice.
8) Mexican/Spanish rice is ready to serve.
This is great even on its own, and can be made sumptuous by adding a cup of cooked black or kidney beans as the rice cooks. This mexican rice makes a great filling for burritos or as a side with fajitas(coming up) or in wraps. You can make this ahead of time in the fridge as a large batch, and also other veggies etc., and then assemble wraps on the go.
This Spanish/mexican rice is definitely a must-try on chilly evenings.