I think that Mexican meals can be some of the hardest to plan.  Of course, most people love Mexican food, myself included – spicy hot food with melted cheese, warm tortillas, yummy beans and peppers – what’s not to love?  Aside from chips and salsa, I usually have a hard time thinking of what else to serve as side dishes.  I am crazy about the standard refried beans and rice served on the side of almost every entree in a Mexican restaurant.  However, I had never found a recipe for making Mexican rice at home that even came close to what I was looking for…until now.  This version is exactly the right side for a wonderful Mexican meal.  I served it with refried beans as well and felt like I was in a restaurant!  I will be making this again and again and again.  I think the tomato and onion puree used in cooking the rice really helps impart both color and flavor to the rice.  It may seem like a fair amount of work for a side dish (or at least quite a few dishes) but it is definitely worth it, in my opinion.

Recipe Rewind: tried and true favorites I’ve made recently
Roasted Tomato Soup 

Mexican Rice
2 ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 medium white onion, peeled, trimmed and quartered
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
3 medium jalapenos, ribbed, seeded and minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro (optional)
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and move a rack to the middle position.  Process tomatoes and onions in the food processor until smooth and thoroughly pureed, about 15 seconds, scraping down the bowl if necessary.  Transfer the mixture a liquid measuring cup; you should have 2 cups (if necessary, spoon off excess or add water so that the volume equals 2 cups).   

Place the rice in a large fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Shake rice vigorously in strainer to remove all excess water.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed oven-safe Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the rice and fry, stirring frequently, until it is golden and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium; add the garlic and minced jalapenos; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir in pureed tomatoes and onions, chicken broth, tomato paste and salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Cover the pan an transfer to the oven; bake until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes.

Stir in cilantro (if desired) and serve with lime wedges.  

Source: adapted from Dinner and Dessert, originally from Cook’s Illustrated, September 2004