Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The perfect pot of rice

I have watched my Mexican sister make the perfect pot of rice over and over and it has never failed. The key here I think, is the pot. She has an old cast iron pot, she says don't even try to cook rice in anything else. I have given up making rice with a pot on the stove some years ago now and have used a n electric steamer for many years now and have always liked it, but the rice here is always soooo much better. I think when you steam it some flavor evaporates....that's my theory anyway. The rice here is just so flavorful.So, get a good old cast iron pot, the best place to get one I think would be at a second hand store, that is where I am going to look as soon as I get home. Here, I plan on going to the Juarez Flee market one Sunday to find one. Don't let anyone talk you into getting a non-stick or fancy tephlon crap, or a so and so expensive cooking set....plain ol' cast iron.
Once you have your pot, you are ready, seriously, do not try this will any other pot. I really think the pot is the secret.Forgive me here as I have no measurements, if you use the same pot all the time and make the same amount of rice each they do here, you can always eye ball it. When the women here cook they always make the same amount in the same pot, with the same ingredients and they know exactly how much it costs. Always always, same same. Don't mess with what works and fits. You may have to experiment a bit with this.

First she put some oil in the pot and the rice, enough oil so that when stirred all the rice was saturated and there is still a little bit of oil at the bottom of the pot, with the lid off, you fry your dry rice, stirring occasionally. You fry it until each grain of rice looks individual...not sure how to explain this, some grains will become a light don't want dark brown, they don't need to be brown at all, stir more if they are becoming brown. Once they all look very "individual" or defined, you add your water. Again I have no measurement, there was about an inch of water...maybe a wee bit more, above the rice. Then she also put in a bunch (you decide how much you want) of diced, carrots, onions, celery, and peppers and some Knorr caldo de pollo (chicken bouillon), she gave it all a big stir and put a lid on it. She turned the heat down a bit. She never touched it again. Never even peeked. I tried to peek once and was told "I'll tell you when it's done, keep the lid closed". In another words, "get away from there!".

Rice done frying in the oil, if  you click this you can enlarge it to see how the grains of rice look "individual".

Vegetables cut up

and added to the rice

it is given on big stir to mix the rice and vegetables

Water and bouillon is added

She just knew when it was ready, this will require some practice. I can't imagine not peeking or stirring, she never stirred it. I keep thinking I wanted to time this but always get busy and forget. Once it's done she gives it one big stir to fluff it up and it sits in the pot with the lid on all it slowly disappears. Can you believe I forgot to take a pictures of the finished rice? Terrible reporting...I know.

The beans;
Even easier than the rice, again I think it's the pot. She uses an old pressure cooker pot, without the lid. She likes pinto beans the best, not sure what her reasons are, her beans are awesome so I don't care why.

Put the beans in the pot and cover with water and about 4-5 inches extra and one onion just cut into quarters and a few chilis (you choose how many) This pot is always put on the fire with a lid on it, just a lid laid on top, not even sealed. And it is just left alone for about 3 hours. 

Then in a pan with some oil she fries up some onions and garlic, once the beans are done she then takes as many beans as her pan will hold and mixes it in with her onions and oil, just to blend the flavors a bit and then pours it all back into the bean pot. She has a hand mixer that she then puts into the big pot and purees the beans. Everyone has a preference as to how pureed they like it and how runny they like the beans, if you like it runny you leave the excess water in the pot if you don't you drain the water out. Her beans are not super runny and she doesn't puree it totally, some beans are still left intact. I like it this way as well. If you do not have a hand held blender you put the onion and oil mixture with some beans into a blender and then pour back into the pot.
There seems to be a perception out there that the Mexicans use lard in their beans, maybe some do, I have never seem my sister or my Tia use lard, just a bit of cooking oil to fry the onions in.
These beans with some rice and some fresh tortilla is so good, I can see how the Mexicans have been eating this for 100s of years and they are still excited when it is served...every day. Seriously, I have seen her brothers and her boys (who are men) come in from work and just inhale this and throughout the whole meal talk about how good it is.
I find that the people here are much more enthusiastic about their food, even just about beans and rice, where as in my other country you have to serve up something really spectacular to even get any reaction. Maybe it's because we take food for granted, we feel we've earned it, whereas here most people will acknowledge that it is a gift from God, regardless of how faithful to their God they are.
 This is the standard recipe for the regular beans, there is another bean dish called frijoles de puerco, this has a few more ingredients in it and I haven't witnessed the whole process for that, When I do, I will report. It is super super yummy as well. 

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