This week, we were making tacos, and I decided I would try to make some Spanish rice. I couldn’t stop there, though, I had to make it my own. So I added a few extras, thus no longer making it Spanish rice. I was happy with the flavour, but the heat could have been dialled up slightly. However, my kids would not have eaten it if it was spicier.
In truth, recipes like this are more closely related to pilaf. On top of the multitude of names, when you look up what a pilaf is, it is generally a rice dish cooked in a broth or other liquid, with vegetables and spices added. Some more famous pilafs include Paella, biryani, and Mexican or Red Rice (though it’s not called Mexican rice in Mexico). Because I was using a base of Spanish rice, I knew I was essentially making a pilaf. I will cover a basic recipe for rice pilaf in a future recipe, but trust me, it’s easy. My kids can already make a very basic pilaf.
So, where does Mexican rice or its alternative names come from? According to Chelsie Kenyon from Spruce Eats (2019), there isn’t a clear history. One suggestion is from the Spanish invasion of Mexico. The Spanish, being worldly travelled, brought rice from Asia to Mexico. It then evolved into a dish with the addition of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, chicken stock, and spices. The Spanish may have already had Paella by this time and, working with what they could find locally, could have started adding ingredients native to Mexico to form a new dish. That is speculation, but I’m sure it’s not entirely far off. Many dishes in history have benefitted from a change by a different culture, after all. Like pizza.
While pizza is not a new dish, it is relatedly young in its current renditions. Some historians tell of pizza being a meal for the mass of Neapolitans when it was created—a flatbread with various toppings meant to be eaten on the go. Pizza took off once these Italian masters brought their creation to the Americas! Now pizza is regional in the USA with Detroit, Chicago, and New York styles. With toppings that range equally, such as ham and pineapple, created in Chatham, Ontario.
Rice dishes have a similar variety, with many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the middle east having a variation of a pilaf. There was likely influence from one region or another with so many types to choose from.
Let’s get to how to make this dish.
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp canola oil
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup long-grain rice
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 red pepper diced
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp kosher salt
- Heat a saucepot with medium-high heat.
- Add the butter, oil, onion, and garlic to the pot and sweat them.
- Next, add the rice and stir it until it smells toasted, maybe three minutes.
- Add the red pepper and continue to stir.
- Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, coriander, bay leaf and cumin.
- Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and allow the water to simmer until absorbed by the rice.
- Once you can longer see liquid in the bottom of the pan (you’ll need to use a spoon to move the rice around), take it off the heat.
- Allow the rice to rest for five minutes, then taste and add salt if needed.