I absolutely love Mexican food. Well, the Tex-Mex sort you get in the US, that is. I think it’s because I grew up in a largely Hispanic Texas city with a “Mexican Restaurant” on every corner. I love everything about it–the taco meat, the tortillas, the enchiladas, the queso, the chips and salsa, the refried beans… but I especially love the rice. For those who may not know, “Spanish rice,” the kind you’d get in a “Mexican Restaurant” is usually yellow with hints of tomato and garlic flavors that sometimes features add-ins like onion, carrots, sweet peas, and lima beans. It is salty, not usually spicy, and fluffy. The fluffiness is what makes it superb. It’s not sticky or gooey or soggy, but magnificently fluffy. Ah.
My mother’s husband is Mexican (true blue from-Mexico Mexican) and he taught me how to make his Spanish rice. It is very similar to what is served in Mexican restaurants. I’ve adapted his recipe to more closely taste like the restaurant variety I am familiar with, and now I’m giving it to you all.
I will say that this is the basic version. I do like the variety with many add-ins, but at home, I prefer to keep it simple. If you want to add onion, carrot, peas, or lima beans, saute them in the oil before you add the rice and garlic. Onion is usually finely chopped and the carrot is usually diced in tiny squares. These veggies need to be almost soft before you start cooking the rice, otherwise, your rice will burn and the veggies will still be crunchy. If you cook them well enough, you won’t have to add any extra cooking liquid to the rice, which will ensure a fluffy product.
Restaurant-Style Spanish Rice Recipe (makes about 3 cups)
1 Tbsp oil (vegetable or olive works best)
1 cup uncooked enriched long-grain white rice
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
2 cups liquid (water, chicken stock/broth, or vegetable stock)
1. Combine oil and rice in medium pot with tight-fitting lid over Medium heat, stirring to coat the rice in oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until rice begins to sizzle and brown–about 3 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until about half of the rice has turned tan in color and the garlic is barely softened.
3. Add the tomato paste and stir into the rice. It will be sticky, but try to remove as many large lumps of paste as possible. You essentially want every grain of rice coated with paste. Also add the seasonings now.
4. REMOVE THE POT FROM THE HEAT and very carefully add the cooking liquid. It will steam and spatter a bit at first, so add quickly with the pot away from you. Return the pot to the heat and stir it well to break up any large chunks of paste.
5. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13-17 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat without removing the lid and allow the rice to rest about 5 minutes.
6. Fluff the rice with a fork, do not stir, and serve alongside your favorite “Mexican” meal.
I make this to eat on the side with tacos, burritos, and enchiladas–my husband puts it INSIDE the taco/burrito. Doesn’t it just look fluffy?!?