Mexican rice is flavored and colored with tomato sauce, unlike Spanish rice, which gets its golden hue from saffron. This veggie-filled side dish pairs well with many different entrees; add cooked chicken or chorizo for a heartier main dish.
Step 1: Prepare tomato sauce
Tip: To spice up the sauce, add chopped fresh jalapeno, starting with 1/2 teaspoon and increasing to taste, or add a couple tablespoons of diced canned chile peppers or bottled hot chile sauce to taste. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin or chili powder, if desired.
Step 2: Toast the rice
Coat the rice in oil and add it slowly to a medium-hot skillet to avoid spatter. (The oil helps keep the rice from getting mushy.) Toast the rice until it turns golden, then drain any excess oil.
Tip: Make sure you stir the rice as it toasts in the oil to avoid scorching.
Step 3: Combine tomato sauce and rice
Add the tomato sauce to the rice in the skillet. Cook and stir the rice until it has absorbed the tomato sauce, a process that gives the rice color and flavor.
Step 4: Add broth and vegetables
Add the broth and your favorite veggies to the rice-tomato sauce mixture. (We like to use frozen peas, chopped zucchini, chopped carrots, and chopped sweet peppers.)
Step 5: Cook rice
Cook the rice mixture, uncovered, until nearly all the water is absorbed (about 12 to 15 minutes). You don't need to stir the rice much. Just check it occasionally to make sure the pan doesn't boil dry.
Cover the pan, remove it from the heat, and let it stand for about 10 minutes before serving so that the rice can absorb the remaining liquid. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.
Tip: Change up the recipe by adding a can of black beans or pinto beans that have been rinsed and drained to the cooked rice.
For extra-quick Mexican rice, cook 1 chopped green sweet pepper in olive oil until the pepper is soft. Stir the pepper into a prepared package of Mexican-flavor heat-and-serve rice.