Tomatoes are an excellent source of antioxidants including vitamins A and C, lutein, and lycopene. The carotenoid lutein, which is found in abundance in tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, and egg yolks, may help promote cognitive function and prevent age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and breast cancer.
This recipe for Arroz a la Mexicana is a tasty side from south of the border. It was sent to CCSA as part of a series of emails from our resident chef, Dr. Linda Doody. She has been sharing her extensive collection of favorite recipes with friends, family, and the CCSA team as a means of maintaining connection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coincidentally, Diana Kennedy, the author of the cookbook from which recipe comes, passed away recently at the age of 99. A British expatriate, she became one of the world’s leading experts on authentic Mexican cuisine in every state by painstakingly hunting down traditional recipes from home cooks and documenting indigenous edible plants.
When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste
– Laiko Bahrs.
Arroz a la Mexicana
Diana Kennedy, The Cuisines of Mexico (1972)
- 1½ cups long-grain white rice (Long-grain rice is long and thin [roughly 4–5x as long as it is wide] and produces distinct firm grains that stay fluffy and separate after cooking. Types include American long-grain white rice, Basmati rice, and jasmine rice)
- Just over ⅓ cup peanut oil or safflower oil
- 1 large tomato (about ½ pound) peeled, seeded and chopped, or ⅔ cup canned tomatoes (Muir Glen brand whole peeled tomatoes, which are favored by America’s Test Kitchen, work well)
- ⅓ medium onion
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 3½ cups well-salted chicken broth or water containing 1½ teaspoon salt
- Pour hot water onto the rice to cover and let it stand for about 25 minutes. Drain the rice and rinse it well with cold water in a sieve. Shake the sieve and leave the rice to drain for a while. Heat the oil well. Give the rice a final shake to get rid of any excess water. Stir the rice into the oil, making sure the grains are well coated.
- Fry the rice in a large saucepan, stirring it from time to time until it is a pale golden color. This will take 10 minutes or more, depending on the width of the pan. Tip the pan to one side. Hold back the rice with the back of a large metal spoon and let the oil drain away from it. In this way you can drain off most of the excess oil.
- Blend the tomato with the onion and garlic to a smooth purée; there should be 1 cup if fresh tomatoes are used and ⅔ cup if canned. Add the tomato purée to the rice and cook over a high flame, stirring the mixture constantly until it is almost dry, about 3 minutes.
- Stir the broth or salted water into the rice—do not stir again during the cooking period—and cook the rice over a medium flame, uncovered, until most of the liquid has been absorbed (at this stage holes will appear in the surface). This will only take about 10 minutes.
- Cover the pan and let the mixture continue cooking over a very low flame for 5 minutes more. Remove from the flame and set the rice aside, still covered, in a warm place for 30 minutes; it will cook and soften more in its own steam.
This is what all those boxed Spanish rice mixes are trying to re-create. This rice can be cooked ahead and heated gently, tightly covered, in a deep flameproof dish (not larger than 8½ inches in diameter) in a 300°F oven for about 40 minutes. Any leftover rice can be heated through in the same way the next day; obviously, the length of time should be calculated depending on quantity. The rice also freezes very successfully. Wrap it in a foil package. To reheat, place the package, still frozen, into a 350°F oven and heat through for about 1 hour.