Did you ever wonder how Mexican rice gets that color it has or the flavor? You think it's from tomatoes or tomato sauce and you have tried making it that way (I sure have). That's not what makes "the color"! My daughter in love, Jessy, is Puerto Rican and she let me in on "the secret." The color is from achiote seed (or annatto), and she uses it in her cooking - which is fabulous. Now you ask, what is achiote and where do you get it? Well, you can get it in the international aisle of your grocery or from your local Mercado. The box has Sazon Goya on the top and has NET WT. 1.41 oz printed on the bottom left hand corner. Inside the box are 6 or 8 packets (not sure because I have used some of them). Each packet is about the size of the one a moist towlette comes in. Inside the packet is this lovely reddish orange powder that will make your Mexican rice THE perfect color and flavor. It's so nice to have inside information.
I found this information on eHow.com that explains achiote, in case you wonder what it actually is.
Achiote spice comes from seeds that look like small stones. Also called annatto seeds, they are harvested from the inedible, spiny of a small tropical shrub nicknamed "the Lipstick tree." Grown mostly in Peru and Brazil, achiote is sold whole, ground or as a paste. It is also a common ingredient in Mexican, Jamaican, South American and Filipino cuisine. In the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, achiote seeds are ground together with chiles, garlic, bitter orange and other spices to make a rub for whole suckling pig. The pig is then wrapped in banana leaves and slowly cooked in a stone-lined pit. In the Philippines, achiote is used in soups and stews, or as a meat marinade. Try adding it to your favorite recipes to give them a richer color! Look for achiote or annatto in Latin American markets or in the spice section of your gourmet food store. Sometimes called "poor man's saffron," achiote can be substituted for saffron in dishes prized for their bright, yellow color like paella.
Now that you know what "the secret" is, let me share the recipe I use to make this outstanding Mexican rice. If you follow these directions, it turns out perfectly.
First, you want to use a long grain rice, basmati or jasmine rice - NO Minute Rice. I used jasmine rice because I really like it. Rice should be rinsed to get rid of a lot of the starchiness that surrounds the grains. Put the measured amount in a bowl, cover it with water, stir it around with your hand several times and drain. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times until the water is fairly clear. This will help you achieve fluffy rice, unless you like gummy rice. If so, skip this step.
Here is what you will need for this recipe.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup plain tomato sauce or diced tomatoes in their juice (this is what I used)
4 heaping Tbsp finely chopped parsley or cilantro (I used cilantro) - optional
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 packet Sazon Goya con culantro y achiote
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 1-2 minutes. Add dry rice and cook with onions for about 5 minutes until the rice is a golden brown color. Add the garlic and saute 1 more minute.
Add in the chicken broth and tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes with juice) and 1 packet Sazon Goya Con Culantro Y Achiote. ( Add the broth and tomatoes into the center of the rice, not directly on the hot pan as it will reduce the temperature of the pan.) Add the parsley or cilantro if you are using it. Stir until ingredients are well mixed and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes. DO NOT UNCOVER THE POT! This disturbs the cooking process and it's so tempting to look. After 20 minutes, remove the pan from heat and uncover Fluff with a fork.
I have used this recipe many times and I get perfect rice every time. This recipe feeds 4 - 6 generously and is as good as we get at the local Mexican restaurant. It makes a perfect side dish to your favorite Tex-Mex or Mexican dishes. Really, it's good with anything.
If you have left over rice, it's great to mix with scrambled eggs, salsa and cheese to make a yummy breakfast burrito. Our kids LOVED these when they were all at home and we would make them on Saturday mornings for a special treat.
Now that you know the secret to the perfect Mexican rice with the beautiful red-orange color and flavor, it's time to make some. You are going to be happy you found out this "little secret."
Things to Remember:"rice is the best, the most nutritive and unquestionably the most widespread staple in the world." Escoffier