Continuing with dishes to make to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day tomorrow, here’s my favorite version of Mexican rice.

The ingredients behind good Mexican rice may sound almost like you’re making a pico de gallo—tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic. But instead of dipping chips into a chunky salsa, you puree the tomatoes and other ingredients and add them to the rice after you’ve sautéed it in oil. Each of these steps guarantees that each rice kernel will get coated in seasoning and have that bright red color.

This recipe is based on one I discovered in The America’s Test Kitchen: Family Cookbook, one of my favorite cookbooks. But I’ve made quite a few changes to make it even faster and easier to put together. The original recipe calls for you to cut up fresh tomatoes, seed jalapenos. When I’ve done that I always seem to end up with either too much jalapeno—meaning the rice is way too spicy to eat or there’s not enough oomph with the jalapeno (but I still had to get chile juice underneath my nails after getting them prepped for the recipe). I bypass all those steps by using canned tomatoes with green chiles. The milder chiles have the perfect balance of spice.

Recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes + baking

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

2 10-ounce cans sliced tomatoes and green chiles

1 small onion, peeled, quartered

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves

2 cups chicken broth (or water)

2 cups rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

fresh cilantro (optional)

¾ cups peas (canned or frozen, thawed optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse the rice with water to remove the starch.
  3. On the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed pan bring the oil to a medium-high heat.
  4. Add the rice and cook until the rice is no longer translucent (about 5 minutes).
  5. In a blender or food processor, mix the tomatoes, salt, onion and garlic.
  6. Carefully pour the tomato puree into the rice, cook for 3 minutes then add in the chicken broth.
  7. Bring the rice mixture to a boil and then place it in the oven for 20 minutes. (Alternatively, you can cook the rice on the stovetop.)
  8. Remove the rice from the oven, checking to make sure all of the liquid is absorbed. Add in the peas and cilantro and fluff with a fork.
  9. Serve with lime wedges to drizzle on top.
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