This Monday morning after Easter, I woke up with Mom on my mind. This happens after every major holiday. The memories of my childhood come flooding back in. And with the constant reminders on social media, it’s hard to escape the feelings of nostalgia. I have mentioned before that out of all of my Mom’s recipes, her rice recipe, holds a special place in my heart.
Every Mexican family has their own version of “Mom’s Rice”, Mexican Red Rice, Arroz a La Mexicana or even Spanish Rice. On most days, the rice was prepared with a freshly blended tomato sauce, onions, 1 whole serrano pepper and minimal spices. I really don’t remember a day when it was not perfect. Well, at least in my eyes it was always perfect.
There are a few variations to her recipe. It was always prepared with a white long grain rice. She never measured any ingredients, which still amazes me. Most times she would add frozen peas or carrots if available. In a pinch she would use a splash of canned tomato sauce instead of freshly blended. While I was visiting my Tia(aunt) in Monterrey, she prepared her version of red rice by adding a cube of caldo de pollo con tomate (chicken/tomato flavored bouillon). It’s a combination of chicken and tomato bouillon and gives the rice a lighter red color. It has a distinct flavor, that I have to admit I have grown to like. Although I must say that the best recipes are the ones prepared with homemade broth when available. Read through the whole post for extra tips and troubleshooting, lol! It’s good to know, especially when preparing rice from fresh ingredients for the first time. This is my version of Mexican Rice.
Tips~ If using tomato sauce, paste or tomato/chicken bouillon will yield a darker orange rice.
Yields 6 Servings
Grapeseed or Olive oil( canola or corn oil was traditionally used)
1 cup of long-grain rice
1 serrano pepper, left whole but sometimes I slice it open
1/4 of a white onion, left in large pieces
1 clove of garlic, sliced or roughly chopped
Pinch of Mexican oregano
3 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
Salt to taste
2 cups water or low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules (if available use the Knorr brand that is tomato and chicken flavor together)
Small handful of cilantro, optional
Fresh cracked pepper and more salt, if needed
1/2 cup of frozen peas and carrots mixed, optional
1. Add oil, rice, serrano and onion to skillet. Heat to medium heat. After a few minutes, the rice will begin to toast. Stir as needed until the rice, onions and serrano become aromatic and begin to toast and brown lightly.
2. While the rice toast, on another burner, add the water(or broth) and bouillon. Heat on medium and stir just to dissolve the bouillon. Do not let it boil.
3. To the blender, add the tomatoes, garlic, oregano and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. You may need to use a spatula to scrape the ingredients down so they will blend smoothly. Do not add any water to the tomatoes when blending. Once the rice is toasted, add the blended tomato sauce from blender. Gently stir to combine and cook for 3 -5 minutes.
4. Add the warm broth to the skillet. It will come to a boil quickly. Stir gently, taste for salt and season with some fresh cracked pepper. Add the cilantro, reduce heat, cover pot with foil and then cover with the lid tightly. If you are adding the frozen peas and carrots, add them now as well. Set timer for ten minutes. After ten minutes, check the rice to see if liquid has evaporated. If it has evaporated, continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.
5. Remove the large pieces of onion and cilantro. Fluff the rice with a fork stirring from the outer edges in to combine everything. Keep covered until ready to serve.