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May 17, 2009 10:46 AM

Mexican or Spanish Rice for a Crowd

I offered to make the rice for a dinner party for 10-12 my friend is giving next weekend. It is going to be Mexican food, so I thought I would make a Mexican or Spanish rice (as opposed to simple yellow rice). I have never made rice for that many people before. I do not have a rice cooker. How much should I make? How should I make it--should I make it in two batches? Or can I make it in one big pot? I usually make rice on the stove-top, but should I do it in the oven. Any recipes would be great, too. Thanks so much.

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  1. I've made rice for that many people many times, and it shouldn't be any harder than making it for 4. You would just double or triple the recipe you are using, and use a bigger pot than you would for the basic recipe. The main thing to remember with Mexican rice, is to saute the rice in oil or fat (butter, lard) with onion before adding your liquid.

    Here's one traditional recipe:

    1-1/2 T vegetable oil
    1 C long grained rice
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
    1 ripe med-small tomato, peeled, seeded and diced (or 1/2 a 15 oz can tomatoes, drained)
    1-1/2 C broth (preferably chicken) or water
    Salt (1/2 tsp if using salted broth, 1 tsp if not)
    Optional veggies: 1 cup fresh or frozen peas, 1 small carrot, cut into tiny dice
    Cilantro or parsley sprigs for garnish

    Fry the rice and onions in the oil until lightly browned, about 7-10 minutes (while the rice is cooking, bring broth/water/salt to a simmer in a separate pot). Add garlic to rice/onion mixture and cook a minute more. Add tomato to rice, and cook/stir for a minute or two. Add hot broth to rice mixture, stir well, and bring to a simmer, reduce heat to med-low, and cook for 15 minutes, covered. Turn off heat and let rice sit for 5-10 minutes, covered.

    While rice is cooking, prepare your peas and carrots by steaming until tender. Add veggies to rice (after it has sat for the 5-10 minutes) and stir/fluff with a fork. Serve garnished with cilantro/parsley.

    This recipe is for 4, so I'd triple it for your purposes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: DanaB

      Great recipe. I'd add a couple of minor refinements. I think medium-grain rice (e.g. Calrose) is more flavorful than long grain and it is more typically used in Mexico. And you get better results if you rinse the rice to remove stray starch and soak it for half an hour and then drain it thoroughly. It isn't absolutely necessary, but I think it does help the grains to cook more evenly. In frying the rice, you cook it until the transparent grains become opaque. You can cook them until they color, if you like. If I am going to get the rice brown, I add the onions after the rice has cooked a while so as not to burn the onions. Garlic goes in torward the very end. You can add a little cumin if you like, too, to the rice as it fries. I normally cook for a community of 12 and three cups of rice does it nicely for us. If your group is made of big rice eaters, however, you could cook up four cups. It won't go to waste.
      I find that packaged broth is often too salty, so if I haven't made broth from scratch, I use half and half water and packaged broth.
      As for the pot, I usually use a very large saute pan on our commercial range. Fortunately, one of our stock pot lids covers it tightly. The rice cooks up faster that way (as long as the pan doesn't develop hot spots). But you want a tight seal on it after you add the liquid and let it simmer and then sit.

      1. re: Father Kitchen

        Thank you DB and FK. My next question was going to be what kind of rice, so thank you for addressing that. I don't have home made broth, but I usually buy low sodium broth. If I use frozen peas, I should not have to cook them at all in advance. No green or red pepper??

        1. re: Val55

          Mexican rice is basically a pilaf. Arroz blanco Mexicano is the simplest of all pilafs--just the rice and a bit of onion/garlic and water/broth. You wouldn't even add the tomato. Of course you can put other things in, as in the recipe above. Beyond that, it is up to you. Many kinds of pilaf add other ingredients. But my suggestion is that you keep it very simple. You want to enjoy the flavor of the rice itself. If you do add peppers of any kind, be very light handed--they are an accidental note in a chord, not a tonic or dominant note. They should add interest but not call a lot attention to themselves. In my experience, you are likely to get it right when you add things if you try the basic version first without the add-ons. Get the flavor of that into your senses and then you know what you have to work with.

    2. I make a green rice. Sautee common long grain rice until it starts to brown, throw in homemade stock in which I've blended a big handful of cilantro. Toss in some cumin, season. Cook as usual.

      5 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Sam, as I recall, one way of getting green rice is to blend a leaf of romaine lettuce and it to the rice.
          And, if you aren't interesting in authentic Mexican food, experimenting can turn up lots of things. My taste keeps swerving in the direction of the Middle East. I love it with chopped dried apricot and pistachios. I can't help but wondering what a pinch of mahleb would do. Or even simply some shredded coconut and bacon drippings as the cooking far.

          1. re: Father Kitchen

            Sorry Sam, I'm fickle and going to listen to Our Father for tomorrow's dinner.

            1. re: Father Kitchen

              Hey, FK! Actually I like the cilantro flavor base and have had it in Mexico. Mmmmm! I'd sure come by for some or your Middle Eastern style rice!

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Don't call it cilantro. Call it dahnia (or is it dhania) and you're in!
                For those who haven't a clue as to what I mean, coriander in India and much of the Indian Ocean Basin is known as dahnia, and it is a wonderful and common ingredient in cooking. I actually first learned to love it in Kenya. So change the name--cilantro to dahnia-- and the dish becomes Asian--or so my joke would have it.
                Actually, most of the savory rice dishes of the world fit into a few simple groups that vary in a geographical continuum that stretches across the planet. There are plain steamed or boiled rices. And then there are the pilafs or pullaos that begin by frying the rice before moist cooking it. And there are also dishes that fry the rice after it has been moist cooked. Quite a number of rice cookbooks are available now that present a huge variety of these dishes. One of my favorites is "Seductions of Rice" by Alford and Duguid. But, I must say, they are stronger on Asian and African dishes than Latin American and Carribean cooking.
                I do not know what frying does to the starches in uncooked rice, but it must alter their structure. When the hot broth is added, they cook up much more quickly. One great advantage is that the flavor is a bit more complex.
                The end result of this frying followed by the addition of broth will change depending on the variety of rice. You get everything from risottos and paellas to the pullaos of Iran and Moghul India. Yet for everyday use it is hard to beat the rice dishes of Mexico, which include a whole world of things mostly unknown in the U.S.