In Italy the Tuscan’s are know as the “mangiafagioli” or the bean eaters. I’m proud to count myself among the bean eaters of the world. For that matter a rice eater too! Beans and rice the unsung hero’s of any Mexican meal.
What a perfect pairing as side dishes to accompany Chicken Mole, Enchiladas, Tamales, Tostadas, Fajitas, or any other entree that is playing the starring role for the Mexican meal.
But for me a plateful of Mexican rice and beans with a little cheese sprinkled on beans and sides of Pico de Gallo and corn tortillas make a perfect meal when I’m feeling the need for a little comfort food to warm my tummy and satisfy my appetite. For breakfast a taco made with a fresh flour tortilla and filled with scrambled eggs, beans, and cheese makes me happy too!
My earliest memories of helping mom in the kitchen was the job of stirring the rice in the cast iron pan as it browned when she needed to tend to making all the other food. I also learned the lesson to “always wear shoes in the kitchen.” Nothing hurts more than grains of hot rice jumping from the pan as I stirred with a wooden spoon and landing on the top of my bare feet! The technique of making Mexican Rice that my Grandma passed on is very special. No fat is used in making the recipe. The rice is slowly browned in a dry pan over medium low heat until the rice is evenly golden brown and takes on a nutty smell. This requires constant stirring or shaking of the pan through out the browning process and usually takes about 18 to 20 minutes. I think this is where I learned patience as a kid. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat to make the process go faster. The rice can go from not brown to burnt in a flash. Not good thing.
The smell of beans cooking makes me really happy! Such a simple food that can satisfy with its creamy texture and delicious flavor. Grandma’s preparation although simple was full of flavor. I always loved my mom’s re-fried beans but Grandma’s had a special flavor and richness. I only came to learn her secret later in life. The taste memory of Grandma’s beans was always with me. It was only when I was living in San Antonio and would visit local Mexican cafes that I would encounter the flavor in the re-fried beans that my Grandma prepared. What was it? Well one day after preparing bacon for breakfast, I saved the bacon fat. I thought I’d use it when making re-fried beans for dinner. The first taste of those re-fried beans took me back to my childhood and the taste of Grandma’s re-fried beans. That was the secret, lard! You see I grew up not eating pork or pork products, well so I thought! It seems my parents kept this deep dark secret from us, as not to hurt my Grandma’s feelings after preparing food for us. I’m glad my parents decided to let us enjoy that porky goodness!
The ingredients for both Mexican Rice and Beans are available in all grocery stores and are very inexpensive. You’ll have the option of adding lard to the beans or another fat of your choice or leaving it out all together. Leftovers can be frozen, thawed, and reheated with great results!
- Large Saute Pan with Lid (4 to 5 qt)
- Wooden Spatula
- Mixing Bowl
- 2 cups Long Grain Rice
- 2 cups White Onion (1/4-inch diced)
- 1 Tbsp. Garlic (minced fine)
- 14.5 oz. Crushed Tomatoes
- 3 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
- 2-1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 cup Peas (Fresh or Frozen)
- 1 cup Carrots (peeled, 1/4-inch diced)
- 3 cups Chicken Stock
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Rendered Chicken, Pork, or Beef Fat can substitute)
- Place the sauté pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Add the rice to the saute pan and let the pan slowly heat up.
- Stirring the pan of rice every 30 seconds. The rice will become whiter before it starts to brown as it heats up. Stir the rice constantly to get even browning. This will take 18 to 20 minutes. The final color should be a golden brown and the rice will take on a nutty smell and will smoke slightly. Note: Adjust or remove the pan of rice from the heat if the rice brown to quickly.
- Once the rice is browned add the onions to the rice and stir to combine. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the garlic and stir to combine. Stir and cooking for another 30 seconds.
- To the toasted rice add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir to combine.
- Cook and stir the toasted rice, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste for 5 to 6 minutes or until the tomatoes have reduced and thicken.
- Add the salt and black pepper and stir to combine.
- Add the peas and carrots and stir to combine.
- Add the chicken stock and extra virgin olive oil and stir to combine.
- Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a full boil
- Once the rice has come to a full boil. Give the rice a stir and reduce to low heat.
- Cover the pan with the lid.
- Cook the Mexican Rice for 20 minutes on low heat. Do not open the lid during this time.
- After 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the rice rest with the lid on for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
Note: If I’m roasting a chicken, beef, or pork to go along with the rice. I’ll take 1/2 cup of the drippings and pour them into the prepared rice just before fluffing the rice.
- 6 qt. Stock Pot with Lid
- Wooden Spoon
- Potato Masher
- 1 lb. Dried Beans (Pinto, Black Beans, or Red Beans)
- 3 qt. Cold Water
- 1/2 to 1 cup of Fat (lard, rendered chicken fat, butter, or olive oil) Fat can be omitted if desired
- 1 Cubano Pepper (large) Poblano can be used but can be hotter in flavor.
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
- Sort the dried beans on the counter and removing any stones. Place the bean into the colander and wash under cold water.
- Place the 3 quart of cold water into the stock pot and add the washed dried beans and Cubano pepper.
- Place the stock pot on medium high heat and bring to a boil.
- Once the beans come to a light boil lower the heat to medium and cover the stock pot with the lid. Stir the beans from time to time to see if you need to add more water to keep the beans submerged.
- Simmer the beans for 2 hours or until the beans become soft and tender.
- Remove the lid and add the fat and smash the beans with the potato masher. Mash the beans to your desired consistency. Let the beans cook without the lid until thickened. Stirring with a wooden spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot during this time.
- Add sea salt and black pepper to taste before serving.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.
Note: Do not add any salt to the bean until they are tender. Salt will make the skin of the beans tough if you add it early. I like to season at the end of cooking when the liquid has been reduced completely.