One of the best parts of being a member of the Secret Recipe Club is discovering new and delightful food blogs written by extremely talented people. Each month I am newly inspired and get the best ideas for different ways to approach some of my favorite dishes.
Today’s recipe is a perfect example. I have loved Mexican rice my whole life, always picking that flavor when my mom went shopping for Rice-a-Roni. The richness of the tomatoes always made the rice taste better to me and because my mom seldom used any seasonings, this was fine cuisine to my uneducated taste buds.
Whenever I see a recipe for Mexican rice, I stop and take a look, hoping to see something different and unique. I was immediately enchanted when I saw the recipe for Spanish Rice with a Texas Swing on Colie’s Kitchen. Nicole put a fun and distinctively Texan spin on the classic. She made hers with chili sauce instead of plain tomatoes that gives it a slight barbecue flavor I love. I made a few minor changes, but this is one terrific recipe.
To enhance the southwestern flavors I added a little ground cumin and some oregano. I had sweet Italian peppers from my father-in-law’s garden that gave a nice touch to the dish. Nicole includes a little brown sugar, but I didn’t need to add it because I was using Vidalia onions, which gave of their own sweetness. When you are looking for a quick, healthy and delicious side dish, especially with grilled meats, this is the one for you.
I love using sweet onions when they are in season; Vidalia’s and Walla Walla’s are two varieties we get here on the West Coast. If you don’t have access to them, don’t worry – any onion will be great in this dish.
If you want to make this vegetarian, that is simple. Leave out the bacon and use olive oil instead to sauté the vegetables and rice. A little smoked paprika will imitate the smokiness of the bacon and a touch of salt will balance the dish.
I hope you put this in your file to make soon because grilling season is right around the corner. If you want to give it even more smoky goodness, grill the vegetables before adding them to the rice. You can use fresh poblano peppers or jalapenos if you want more chile flavor and heat.
Honestly, I wanted to grab a cowboy hat and give a rebel yell when I tasted my first bite! I can’t wait for the leftovers that will be tomorrow’s lunch.
Have a fantastic weekend ~ see you next week for Chocolate Monday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
The trick to rice that doesn’t get gummy and stick together is to use long grain rice, sauté it briefly in oil, coating all the grains, and don’t stir it as it is cooking. The less you touch it, the better. Pretty soon you will have perfect rice every time!
Heinz Chili Sauce is gluten-free in most areas of the world, just check the website if you live outside the United States. Applegate makes gluten-free bacon; make sure you check with the manufacturer of other brands to be sure they are do not contain any gluten ingredients. Original Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce is gluten-free. It is always wise to read all the labels and refer to the producers website if you have any questions. And if there is still any doubt, leave it out!
- 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces * (gluten-free if needed)
- 1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds discarded, diced
- 3/4 cup raw long-grain rice
- 1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes with their liquid
- 1-1/2 cups of water (or as directed on rice package)
- 1/2 cup prepared chili sauce, such as Heinz
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
- 1/2 tsp oregano, optional
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Dash of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup frozen peas
- Minced green onions or chives, for garnish
- In a 10-inch skillet with a lid, over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. Using tongs, transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Return skillet to the heat and cook the onions and bell peppers in the bacon fat until tender but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the rice to the skillet and cook for 1 minute, tossing to coat each grain of rice with the oil in the pan.
- In a bowl, combine the tomatoes (with their juices), the water, salt, cumin, garlic powder, chile powder, oregano, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Stir to blend. Pour over the rice. Make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed in the skillet. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 40 to 50 minutes, or according to package directions. Sprinkle the peas over the top of the rice and replace the lid.
- Remove from the heat, leave the pan covered and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. To check to see if the liquid has been absorbed, push a wooden spoon into the center of the rice until touching the bottom of the pan, pull back the spoon and look for liquid in the bottom of the pan. If there is still a lot of liquid, put the rice back on the heat for another 3 to 5 minutes. Stir the peas into the rice and set aside for 5 minutes to heat them through, After the rice has rested, fluff with a fork to break up any clumps.
- Transfer to a serving dish, crumble cooked bacon on top, sprinkle on the green onions and serve hot.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- * If you want to make a vegetarian version of this rice, substitute 3 tbsp of organic olive oil in place of the bacon. Add 1 tsp smoked paprika to get the smoky flavor and 1/2 tsp salt.
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