Easy Mexican Rice and Refried Beans!
Stun your dates, friends and family with your awesome cooking skills!
If you watch as many cooking shows as I do, you know it's a lot about the time that appears to go into making a meal that impresses people the most.
I have some basic recipes for stuff that will make you look like a whiz in the kitchen.
First, a disclaimer. This is only a guide. You can embellish, shape, add or subtract anything you want to from these li'l recipes.
I will sometimes mention stuff like chopped onions or garlic that are easily available in powdered form and work just fine.
Conversely, if I mention a powdered or dried herb or spice that you prefer to use fresh, go for it. My interest in these recipes is for quick and easy and cheap - but still awesome!
Also, check around the produce section or "hispanic foods" sections for a lot of the powdered spices. They come in cellophane pouches with usually colorful labels. They're usually next to the packaged dried chiles. These pouches cost around a dollar. Much cheaper than the bottled kind in the spice aisle. Two brands are "Tampico" and "El Guapo".
Also, it's not for people who only know how to make cereal and still manage to burn it.
To be able to effectively use this manual, you do have to
- be comfortable around open flame
- own a good variety of spices (or know where to get them)
- should also be able to wield a kitchen knife without fear of (or prior incident of) opening a major artery.
So here we go:
First up - two basics of Mexican food. Mexican rice and refried beans.
Even a Taco Bell taco is elevated to elegance when placed on, or next to, a bed of Mexican rice.
What makes rice "Mexican"? Usually, it's fried. It's usually not clumpy like steamed rice. Also, it generally has a red coloration to it.
Sometimes people see red-tinged fried rice with peas and carrots in it. This is NOT the type of rice I'm talking about. That was created by the public school system.
Nope, this rice will be similar to the type you find in a Mexican restaurant.
Here's what you need:
Short-grained white rice - whatever amount you need. just make sure you add 1 part water for each part rice. So 1 cup of rice means you also need to add 1 cup of water. Or one handful of rice should use about a mouthful of water. Gross, I know, but however you want to do it.
A nice, flat frying pan with a lid - you don't really want to use the kind of pans that bend up like a bowl. I've found that these don't work as well as the kinds with nice, large, flat bottoms. Now, when I say "lid" it doesn't have to be a part that comes with the pan. I often use a cookie sheet or covering made of tin foil if I am using a pan without a lid. The recipe will go much faster if you have covering for your pan. If not, then just simmering the rice at just shy of the lowest temperature setting for your stove will work. The goal is to get the rice to absorb the water, so steaming is faster. For steaming anything, you need a lid.
Cooking oil - almost any kind of oil will work here. I use corn or canola. I don't like to use olive oil because it sometimes alters the taste, but you're free to use whatever kind of oil you want. You need about three tablespoons.
Onion - here's an example of when you can go fresh or powdered or even dried. If you choose to use fresh onion, chop it into small cubes and only use maybe a quarter of the onion. You really only want the flavor. If you use the powdered or dried kind, then ignore the part later when I tell you to add the onion to the oil. Powdered onion will be added when the rice is ready to steam. I'll tell you again later, no need to take notes.
Garlic -See onion, above. Just substitute the word "garlic" wherever you see "onlon". Except, you will only want maybe a clove only.
Ground (powdered) California Red chile - For the puposes of this recipe, I suggest only using the powdered variety. You'll need about two tablespoons.
Ground (powdered) Cumin (Cominos) - This is the spice that gives things "taco" flavor. It's very, very powerful and you only need maybe as much as you can pick up with two fingers. (The technical term for that measurement is a "pinch")
Tomato sauce - a small-sized can is good.
You will also need a spatula.
Turn on the stove. Max flame or voltage or whatever. Put the pan on it. Let it get really hot. If you want to test it, place a few drops of cooking oil in it. When it looks like it's boiling a little bit, it's ready.
Toss the rice in and the onions (only if you're using fresh, powdered will be added later). It will pop and sizzle a bit. Be brave and stir with your spatula until the onions turn from white to grey and glassy. Don't brown them.
Once the onions are ready, toss in the rice. Spread the rice evenly over the bottom of the pan. Let it sit for about a minute then start stirring it until all the rice grains are solid white.
Once the rice is ready, pour in your water and tomato sauce. This is where you would add your powdered spices, including the cumin and red chile. You can also add salt or any other spice you would like to at this point. Some cayenne pepper to give it some heat, some hot sauce or salsa.
Stir it up, making sure to sweep the bottom for sticking rice, and wait for it to come to a simmering boil. That's when you see a lot of small bubbles around the edges, not big, bloopy bubbles in the middle. Once you see that go down, cover it up and turn the heat down to about half.
It'll boil and bubble. Let it do so. Open it up and stir it once in a while. You do want to make sure that the water doesn't boil away too quickly. If that's happening, add about a half-cup more water and stir it up.
When the rice has swollen and is soft, it's ready. Take off the lid and turn up the heat. stir the rice around and let it fry a bit. There should be no water left when it's done. The rice should appear dry and slightly toasty.
What goes better with Mexican rice than delicious refried beans? This recipe does depend on whole pinto beans from the can, but you can totally soak dry beans overnight, and then boil them brown if you want to, but this is the quick way.
What you'll need:
A pan - in this case, it doesn't matter what kind of pan you use.
A can of pinto beans - they're packed in water most times, so you will want to drain that before putting them in the pan. I try to avoid the pre-flavored kind, since we will be adding our own spices.
Salt - you'll need about two teaspoons
Onion - about a quarter of an onion. chopped into small pieces. I typicallly use powdered spices for my beans. You'll need as much as you like. A good amount is one or two tablespoons of powdered onion.
Garlic Powder - about two teaspoons or whatever you like.
Cayenne Pepper - About two teaspoons
Cheese - ah, yes. Cheese. Grate some cheddar or jack or use some shreds from a bag of "Mexican" blend. About a half cup. The cheese will act as a bonding agent and make your beans nice and thick.
Cooking oil - I usually use corn oil or even something like Crisco. Canola works well. My grandmother used bacon fat and I've used butter before. You just need something to fry the beans in. You should use about a 1/4 cup of oil.
A Smasher - There are dedicated bean smashers, but a dinner fork will work just fine. It'll just take longer.
You'll also need a spatula.
Ok, here we go:
Get the pan nice and hot and add the oil. When the oil shimmers, it's time to add the beans.
No matter how well you drained the beans, there will be some water on them and when water hits hot oil, it will pop. Expect this and take the proper precautions.
Be brave and start stirring the beans up, adding the powdered spices. let the beans get nice and hot and browner. You want to fry them. Don't blacken them.
Once the beans are nice and fried, add the cheese and let it melt on top. Then take your smasher and smash the beans into paste. SMASH THEM!! Let all of your aggression out. Take it all out on THOSE BEANS.
After the beans are smashed to your satisfaction, spread them out in the pan and let them fry on one side and then on the other. Or don't. That part is optional. The longer you let them fry, the crispier the outside will get.
If you find that the beans are just way too thick, add some water. Just a little at a time, unless you want them runny.
That's it. You've made refried beans! Enjoy in burrito form with some seasoned ground beef and/or cheese - or along with the rice you just made.
To present, place in equal portions next to, or on either side of your entrée. Placing a dollop of sour cream on the rice, or where the rice and beans meet, if placed side by side, is a class move. A little drizzle of salsa can't hurt either.
Some people like to place some shredded cheese on top of the beans. That's good too.
I store my extras just plainly wrapped in tin foil. Reheat them in a microwave or on the stove top, just make sure to add water.