Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Almost Spanish Rice

... aka Mexican Rice, or Red Rice/Green Rice

What do you call that flavorful red rice that accompanies every entree at a Tex-Mex restaurant? Whatever you call it, it's so tasty it could be the main attraction at any dinner... or lunch... or midnight snack when you're just cruising through the fridge looking for something tempting to reheat. I had that in mind when the dinner choices had to feature chicken and rice in one form or another.

Mention chicken and rice in the same sentence and I think arroz con pollo, a dish faintly reminiscent of paella or perhaps a Latin-style pilaf, but not quite.  Oh yes, I can mentally taste that amazing layering of spices and flavorful ingredients. I've often wondered if a deconstructed version of this dish would be an improvement or a disappointment, so it was time to find out. 

Four skin-on chicken thighs, rubbed with an arroz con pollo blend of pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon, sat marinating in the fridge overnight. I browned the thighs well on each side in a nonstick pan, then let them cook in their own juices with a cover on until cooked through. A squirt of lime at the finish added a nice citrusy tang. Mmmmm, good.

But this was really about the rice, surprisingly good with just a few ingredients and a short-cut approach to flavors. I prepared rice, pilaf style, and added salsa, green olives and chopped fresh cilantro just before serving. OMG, the resulting rice dish exceeded all expectations. The rice avoided being mushy or overcooked, an occasional issue with the original all-in-one-pot version. 

Since the rice was cooked without benefit of the spicy oil rendered from chunks of chorizo, this was not a true comparison, but we still liked the results. For fast, flavorful, nearly-Spanish rice, it's a winner.

Almost Spanish Rice
This is more a set of suggestions than a formal recipe.
  1. Use a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and saute rice in a tablespoon or so of spicy oil over medium-high heat until the rice turns translucent and begins too sizzle. 
  2. Add the appropriate amount of liquid (water or chicken broth) as suggested on the packaging and cook until just tender.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in chunky salsa by the quarter-cup until you like the results. Add sliced green olives and chopped fresh cilantro to taste. Diced red pepper or even poblano or tamed jalapeƱo would also be tasty additions.
  4. Top with chopped almonds, or add some diced avocado if you like. Serve quickly and enjoy. 

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