Cilantro adds color and flavor to the meal.
Like mole, this rice is served on special occasions. The following recipe is from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen (Scribner). Bayless and his wife Deann Groen Bayless own and operate Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, Mexican restaurants in Chicago. Like most Mexican rice, this dish is made like pilaf – the raw rice is fried first so the grains will be separate when cooked. — Bonny Wolf
1 2/3 cups chicken broth or water
2 fresh poblano chiles, stems and seeds removed, and roughly chopped
12 sprigs fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
Salt, about ½ tsp. if using salted broth, 1 tsp. if using unsalted broth or water
1 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
1 cup rice, preferably medium grain
1 small white onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the broth and chiles, bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer gently over medium to medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the chiles are very soft. Pour the chile mixture into a food processor, add the cilantro (stems and all), and process to a smooth puree. Press through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl and stir in the salt.
Wipe the pan clean, add the oil and heat over medium. Add the rice and onion, and cook, stirring regularly, until the rice is chalky looking and the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook a minute longer.
Add the warm (or reheated) chile liquid to the hot rice pan, stir once, scrape down any rice kernels clinging to the side of the pan, cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and check a grain of rice: It should be nearly cooked through. If the rice is just about ready, turn off the heat, re-cover and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes longer to complete the cooking. If the rice seems far from done, continue cooking for 5 minutes or so, retest, then turn off the heat and let stand a few minutes longer. Fluff with a fork, scoop into a warm serving dish, decorate with cilantro springs and serve.
Makes about 3 cups, serving 4
The rice can be made several days ahead; turn out the fluffed rice onto a baking sheet to cool, transfer to a storage container, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat the rice in a steamer basket set over boiling water.
Both Bayless and Ortiz are good sources for authentic Mexican cuisine. Another is Diana Kennedy, the high priestess of Mexican cooking. Her book The Cuisines of Mexico (Harper & Row) is an education in itself.