Over the past few months, since we started restricting our dining out, one of the cuisines we’ve missed the most is Mexican food. Here in Texas, one of our blessings is an abundance of rich, spicy Southwestern dishes.
Tex-Mex is now known internationally and is considered a subgroup of Southwestern cuisine. It’s a fusion of traditional Mexican and Spanish native foods that originated around San Antonio during the Mission era, when Texas was a province in northern Mexico.
During an earlier period of my life, I was fortunate enough to live in New Mexico which has its own food culture which is quite different from our Tex-Mex. This cuisine also comes from the indigenous peoples of the region and its Spanish and Mexican cultures. Both cuisines are delicious and different from each other. And both offer a layering of flavors characteristic of traditional Mexican cuisine.
While layering flavors isn’t unique to Mexican cuisine, this is a great place to learn about this interesting cooking technique. Think of your favorite enchiladas, a combo dish built with layers of flavor. Corn tortillas rolled up with a flavored filling; maybe cheese, onions and salsa or meat chili with peppers; then covered with a tasty sauce; red ranchero, green chili sauce or Texas-style brown chili; then topped with yellow cheese and maybe green onions or diced tomatoes. The end product becomes a layered feast of flavors!
If you’ve been cooking at home for a while like us, it’s good to periodically break the routine with a special culinary event. I decided to do a Mexican culinary extravaganza! (Tune in to Mexican radio to emphasize the announcement of your Mexican culinary extravaganza!)
If we went to a restaurant, which plate would I choose? Your event starts with a menu. I decided to make refried beans, spanish rice, green chili and a green chili based sauce from scratch to top the enchiladas.
As secondary characters, I bought a premade guacamole, a good red salsa and fries. Needless to say, it took 2 days to prepare. Think Thanksgiving. We cook for 2 days and then feast on leftovers over the next few days. We enjoyed our Mexican culinary extravaganza! for several nights.
Each time, the menu is slightly modified for interest. We had cheese and onion enchiladas with green chili sauce that came with refried beans and Spanish rice. The next meal was green chili tacos with guacamole salad. You had the idea. As we finished off the last of the leftovers, we both marveled at how we weren’t tired of the Mexican food extravaganza! (same emphasis)
Add this month’s Spanish rice to your recipe file. It’s easy to make and will stand on its own or serve as a great accompaniment to your next Mexican culinary extravaganza!
In this recipe, the combination of olive oil and butter provides the best of both fats. Olive oil with its high smoke point is great for stir-frying and butter adds a rich, savory flavor. Stir-frying brown rice before steaming it adds flavor to the rice and slightly reduces cooking time. Worcestershire sauce is not a traditional ingredient but we layer the flavors. When cooking rice, we’ve all learned the mandate: “Don’t lift the lid until you’re done!” But in this dish it is important to look for pitting, which indicates that the liquid is absorbed. A pot with a transparent lid is best, but if necessary, watch to know when to stir the bottom of the pot. The flavored rice will tend to stick once the liquid is absorbed.
In these days of eating out less often, it’s a good time to explore themed parties at home. Why wait for the next vacation. Let’s create our own party! What will be your next culinary extravaganza?
Tim Scallon is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with years of experience practicing nutrition therapy in hospitals and local clinics, teaching nutrition, and developing healthy recipes. He is a resident of Nacogdoches and he helped create the popular TV show Memorial Cooking Innovations celebrating the world of food and health. Memorial Cooking Innovations is currently airing in 62 cities and is available locally on cable channel 2 from Sudden Link in Nacogdoches.
Serving Size: 1/8 of recipe; Serves: 8
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
½ large white onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1¼ cup brown rice
1 can 8 oz tomato sauce, no salt added
1 can 14½ oz small diced tomatoes, liquid reserved
Enough low-sodium vegetable broth to make 2½ cups of liquid when combined with tomato sauce and reserved tomato liquid (~1 cup)
1½ teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon salt to taste
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dry oregano
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, leaves only, chopped
In a large skillet with a tight fitting lid or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter together over medium heat. Sauté the onion and poblano until soft and fragrant. Stir in rice until well coated and sauté for 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, combined liquid and spices and stir to combine. Stir in Worcestershire, lime and cilantro and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Once the liquid is absorbed, stir the rice to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Continue cooking if necessary until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally.
Exchanges per serving
1 starch, ½ vegetable
Nutrients per serving
Calories from fat: 20
Total fat: 4 g
Total carbohydrates: 14g
Dietary Fiber: 3g