I’m back! Did you miss me? Jamie and I had gone on a trip back to my homeland, Jacksonville, FL to spend some time with family during Easter. Right after a busy weekend of celebrating Jamie’s pre-birthday (since his real birthday happened in Florida) and playing the Barrio Festival with The Cordials. I’m still in major catchup mode – so instead of my CSA haul from two weeks ago, I’m going to focus on a couple of dishes I made for the birthday BBQ, especially my accidental recipe for Jalapeño Rice.
Jamie and I love to put on BBQs and our general modus operandi is to grab some meat, fire up the grill, and tell everyone to bring something to feed the grill (and us) and something to drink. This time, I added a couple of crowd-sized dishes, just to make sure everyone could stuff themselves silly if so inclined. So my two contributions were Traci Des Jardin’s family recipe for carnitas tacos, which I’ve never even attempted before, and a big ol’ batch of Mexican Rice that I tweaked from a Pioneer Woman recipe. Which I then kinda messed up, but the results were tasty, so now I have a new recipe.
If you haven’t checked out Chow.com videos, and you like to cook (or eat for that matter), go to there. It’s full of great videos showing you the easiest way to do this or that, kitchen tips and favorite recipes from various chefs. For the past few weeks, I kept coming back to Des Jardin’s episode of “My Food Thing”. Carnitas, for the very few who might not know, are basically chunks of pork shoulder that have been braised in beer on low heat for a long time. In Traci’s version (from her Mexican-Arcadian grandparents) she specifies a bottle of Negra Modelo and two tangerines plus some chipotle peppers. The result was this:
Which ended up being scarfed before the birthday boy himself could get one measly taco out of it. Que lastima! I guess I’ll just have to make them again. I love braised meat recipes – they’re easy but the long, slow cooking time with all those tangy/spicy ingredients makes the whole block smell amazing. Then the resulting tender meat gets you lots of compliments. It’s nice.
To accompany the tacos, I wanted to whip up some Mexican Rice. I’d stumbled upon the recipe at The Pioneer Woman’s site and have made it many a time, but tend to tweak it out with more garlic (of course) and more taco seasonings (adding chili powder and paprika to the cumin). But this time things went awry in two ways:
- Instead of my usual small can of green hatch chilies, I dumped in a very similar-looking can of sliced jalapenos with all the liquid. I gasped because that is a LOT more vinegary juice than I usually get with the hatch chilies. Plus I was afraid the jalapenos would be too spicy for some of our friends. Eh, whatcha gonna do? I carried on.
- I cooked the rice longer than normal. Not because I was too busy partying with my friends (though that would have been a good guess). When I checked the rice at the recommended time, the top grains still seemed uncooked. So I kept cooking and checking, cooking and checking for another 10 minutes until I realized everything below the very top layer was definitely cooked! Then I turned the heat off and let it sit. The top grains finally absorbed the rest of the liquid. This was not fluffy, every-grain-is a perfectly separate-unit kinda rice. You could almost call it mushy. Tasted great, though, so again, I carried on.
The result was everybody loved it. The jalapeno juice (and jalapenos) added a great tang and the texture of the rice made it more like a casserole than a mere side dish. Plus with the length of time I cooked it, the bottom was almost burnt (not burnt, almost burnt wherein lies a world of difference and yummitude). This may not sound good to some folks, but there are definitely people out there who dig crispy, toasted rice.
Here’s the new recipe, let me know what you think:
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cups long grain rice
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes (No salt added, if possible)
1 small can sliced jalapenos, with liquid
2 cups low sodium chicken broth (more if needed)
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 and a half teaspoons paprika
1 and a half teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
Fresh cilantro, chopped
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to low and add rice and garlic. Stir constantly, making sure the rice doesn’t burn. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes.
3. Add the diced tomatoes with all the juice. Stir to combine and let cook for 2 minutes.
4. Dump in the can of jalapeños (if you’re squeamish about the heat, you can hold back some of the peppers, but I recommend pouring in all the liquid) and add the broth, stirring it all together.
5. Add the salt and spices –— taste and add a bit more of whatever’s missing.
6. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is done. Go ahead and check at 15 minutes, adding more liquid if it’s looking dry. But feel free to cook a bit longer (5 to 10 more minutes) if you want the softer, brown-bottom effect I mentioned above.
Just before serving, sprinkle lots of freshly chopped cilantro over the top.