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Mexican Rice RecipesThe Mexican rice (as in rice and beans) served in Mexican restaurants in the U.S. is not representative of the traditional dishes of Mexico. Read on to learn about the variations and heritage of this humble grain and try some of our recipes that vary from traditional to quick.
Article by: Barbara Bowman
History Of Rice In Mexico
Rice is not a New World food. Rice was introduced to Mexican via the Philippines, then transported to Acapulco in the famous ship Nao de China (Diana Kennedy, Art of Mexican Cooking).
The Spaniards later found the lush tropical climate of Veracruz region of Mexico to be a perfect growing ground for rice. From there it grew to culinary prominence.
Many Uses Of Rice In Mexican Cooking
Rice is traditionally served as the second course of the midday meal. It may be served turned out of a mold to be eaten with beans or with fish. The serving of "rice and beans" next to each other on a dinner plate is not at all typical in Mexico.
Rice is not only reserved as a savory dish but it is also used in desserts, cakes, vegetable puddings, tamales, atoles and even the well known rice drink, horchata.
The rice most commonly used in Mexico is a long-grain with a fleck of the germ left on. When cooked the rice expands to 4 x's its volume. The long grain rice found in the U.S. is really not the same. Both Rick Bayless and Zarela Martinez recommend using a medium-grained white rice for best results.
Pilaf - Most Mexican rice is served "pilaf" style. The rice grains are browned and then simmered in broth. Sometimes bits of carrot, onion and peas are added.
Brothy rice - In Veracruz the traditional preparation is a creamier rice almost a cross between a risotto and a paella.
Rice In Cazuela
The clay cazuela imparts a very specific earthy flavor to rice. The grains can be soaked, drained then fried until brown. Add liquid and simmer uncovered until the rice is tender or Diana Kennedy suggests, cover the cazuela with a towel and a lid.
Rinsing or Soaking
Although it is not necessary to soak rice purchased here in the U.S. it can decrease the overall cooking time and assist in the absorption of flavors from other ingredients. Most of the Mexican culinary authorities agree that rinsing is a must. Place the rice in a colander and rinse it repeatedly until the water runs clear. This removes some of the starch so you'll have a less "sticky" result.
Storing Leftover Rice
Ms. Kennedy suggests packing the rice in thin packets using heavy-duty aluminum foil then freezing. The foil packets need not be defrosted just place them in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Avoid re-steaming which depletes the flavors.