PATI'S MEXICAN TABLE

June 3, 2009 3:25 PM
Unforgettable Rice from El Chepe
POSTED IN: Recipes , Sides
TAGS: arroz , Chepe , Chile Serrano , Garlic , Mexican , Onion , Red , Rice , Sides , Tomatoes , Vegetables
Print This Page | Print Recipe | COMMENTS (21)

I wish each day had ten more hours so I could tell you about so many dishes already.

This is how behind I feel in all I want to share: Six weeks ago our family came back from the Copper Canyon in Mexico. I took notes, pictures, short videos, interviewed cooks, planted myself in their kitchens until forcefully uprooted by my husband, and ate like a mad woman from any interesting sounding dish, which was practically everything (partly with the purpose to come and tell you all about it...).

Then we came home, and life got in the way... I took longer to launch this site because I wanted to add more sections. By the time it was ready, so many weeks had gone by, I was eager to share more recent food excursions from my kitchen.

Yesterday, these red tomatoes reminded me of my delayed purpose. They looked perfectly ripe to become the base for that Mexican Style Rice we ate at the Chepe train (formally known as the Chihuahua al Pacífico). It was unbelievable. Not only how good it tasted, but where and how it is made, every day.
 
Unforgettable rice from el chepe 2.jpg
I expected to find scrumptious food along the Copper Canyon, but not aboard the train.  Used to pre-packaged sandwiches and microwaved hot dogs on the Amtrak, it was suck a treat to choose from a full menu of home-style food.

Ad we sat on the cushy blue seats, we were amazed at how the individual place settings set on the wooden tables jumped without falling as the train rocked on the old wooden tracks.  With the light from the sun peeking through the window, the formally dressed waiters coming out of the kitchen appeared to step out from the Mexican 19th century, with charming mustaches in the like of the long gone Profirian era and all.

Unforgettable rice from el chepe 3.jpg
More amazement, as they poured coffee, dancing as in a tight rope with the steaming pots at least 10 inches away from the cups they were aiming to fill. But even more amazement, after we tasted the food. Such good food on a train? I had puntas de filete with a side of refried beans, quesadillas and the best ever Mexican style rice. Even before dessert, this felt like a trip within the trip itself.




 

Each time, I would ask the waiter to introduce me to the cook in turn. There were not one but three cooks in a fully sized and stocked kitchen. Balancing as if on steady ground, up and down bridges, inside tunnels and around curves, they made some of the most comforting foods I can think of.

Unforgettable rice from el chepe 4.jpgHere is a tip:  when you do to the Chepe, disregard when train officers say the Restaurant is closed.  It seems to be a technique to help guests avoid long waits (or a bottleneck in the kitchen).  Go check it out yourself, there is typically no line and by the time they announce its open, the train ride may be over.  If you are not planning on going to the Chepe train soon, here is the recipe for that deliciously satisfying Mexican rice, shared by the chef in charge of the Chepe's food and menu, Jesus Ley.

unforgettable rice from el chepe 5.jpg
There are of course many variations to this dish. You can substitute fresh tomato puree for 1 1/2 cups of canned puree. Except for few rice dishes, I always add some fresh squeezed lime juice. It makes it crisp and helps the flavors of the other ingredients shine through, but it is optional.You can include the carrots and peas, exclude them or change that vegetable such as by adding green beans and red bell peppers.

And yes, that chile serrano you see in the picture is optional. You can omit it, substitute it for a jalapeño, and can add a couple more if you like. But if you are having Mexicans over, watch out: those chiles that have absorbed the flavors from all the ingredients in that pot, are the rice treasure we all hunt for.
 
MEXICAN STYLE RICE (OR ARROZ ROJO)
Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS
2 cups long or extra long grain white rice
2 tomatoes, or about 1 pound, quartered
1/3 cup white onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or water
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, optional
2 parsley sprigs
3/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced, optional
1/2 cup shelled green peas, fresh of frozen, optional
1 or 2 chiles Serranos, optional

TO PREPARE
In a bowl, soak the rice in hot water for about 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain very well.

While the rice soaks, purée the tomatoes in the blender along with the onion, garlic and salt. Pass through a strainer and reserve.

Heat the oil in a thick heavy skillet (if you have one with a transparent lid, pick that one) over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the rice and sauté, stirring often, until the color of the rice changes to a strong milky white and it shows more resistance and makes a heavier sound as you stir it around, probably about 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour in the strained tomato purée, mix it gently and let it cook until the color of the purée has darkened, thickened and is mostly absorbed, about 3 more minutes.

Stir in the chicken or vegetable broth and lime juice, give it a gentle stir and top with the parlsey sprig, the diced carrots, peas and serrano chiles, if so desired.
 
Let it all come to a boil, and when it does, put the cover on and reduce the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes. Here is where that transparent lid becomes so handy, as you can see what is going on inside the pot without losing steam. You know the rice is ready when it is cooked through and tender, most of the liquid has been absorbed, but there is a lot of moisture in the pot. If the rice is not yet tender and the liquid has dried up, add a couple tablespoons more water, cover again and let it cook for a couple more minutes.
 
Let the rice sit covered for at least 5 minutes before you fluff with a fork and serve. You may also make it beforehand and reheat it covered over low heat with a tablespoon of water.

Comments

Patricia, Thank you for sharing news about your trip to Chihuahua, and of course the yummy sounding rice recipe. I did not understand when to include the lime juice nor the chile. Could you please clarify? Many thanks. Adriana

Adriana Kocornik-Mina | June 3, 2009 4:20 PM

I love this post. I want to take the train ride and eat the steak with the refried beans. What is better the trip or the food?!?!??!

Tamara | June 3, 2009 4:55 PM

Hey there! The food, the food, the food and the food... but that train helps too... (!)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Tamara | June 3, 2009 5:16 PM

My pleasure Adriana! Look for the specific directions inside of the recipe, which follows directly form that post. But you add the lime juice after you add the chicken or vegetable broth, then you mix it all gently and add the chile, parsley sprigs and vegetables of your choice. Let me know if you try it!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Adriana Kocornik-Mina | June 3, 2009 5:20 PM

I love the pictures. Whoever took them is a great photographer. Now how about an entry titled "unforgettable scallops from Cabo" to start to get the stomach juices flowing....

Daniel | June 3, 2009 5:47 PM

Thank you Dany for taking such beautiful pictures!!!! Ok... I will write about those scallops...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Daniel | June 3, 2009 7:35 PM

Hi Pati,
This rice transported me back to Mexico! What a gorgeous photo, recipe and well, site!! I look forward to many more of your postings...and I'm doing that trip next time.
-Un gustazo conocerte!

Eliza | June 8, 2009 2:54 PM

Hi Eliza! Many, many thanks for your comments.
El gusto es mutuo y nos veremos pronto!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Eliza | June 8, 2009 7:25 PM

Pati, Your site is absolutely wonderful, and I'm so excited to try the new recipes. Can't wait for the next Mexican Table events in the fall! We miss seeing you and learning all the new recipes and history of Mexico. Have been using the previous recipes on a VERY regular basis. I agree with one of the comments,chicken tinga on a tostada is the best.
See you soon!

Bonnie Johnston | June 18, 2009 2:14 PM

Dearest Bonnie, Thank you very much for your comments! I am so happy the recipes from the classes are working in your kitchen and I really look forward to seeing you all in the next batch of classes.... I will try my best to have new menus and recipes you will also enjoy! Meanwhile... I will keep on posting things you can try here on this new site, let me know how you like them if you try them!! See you very soon...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Bonnie Johnston | June 18, 2009 7:49 PM

Hi Pati,

I'm just wondering how long this rice (as well as your refried beans recipe) will keep stored in the fridge? We're going to have a big Mexican meal and I'm trying to decide which dishes I can make in advance. Thanks!

emilee | September 16, 2009 5:22 PM

Hi Emilee,
I suggest you make the rice up to one day ahead of time, if prepared before, it hardens too much in the refrigerator and acquires a watery taste. After you make it, let it cool, store in a covered container and refrigerate. The next day you want to eat it, place it in a pan, add about a tablespoon of water, close it with a lid and reheat it over the lowest possible heat. However, it tastes the best when made the same day. You don't have to make it right before you want to eat it, you can make it that same day, 4 to 6 hours ahead of time, and just reheat it over lowest possible heat.
As for refried beans, you can make them up to 4 to 5 days ahead of time and just reheat in a pot, covered, over lowest possible heat as well. They taste great with crumbled Cotija or Farmers' Cheese on top. Hope you have a great meal!!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from emilee | September 16, 2009 10:22 PM

Thanks Pati
My son loves Mexican Rice he calls it "Arroz Naranjita"
Your recipe is wonderful. As a traditional recipe it changes a little in every mexican home.
Your´s is so much better than the one we where using. We like adding some kernel corn (sometimes yellow canned, sometime white fresh).

Thank you

Manuel (Café Fenix) | September 29, 2009 12:02 PM

Hi Manuel! My boys call it "arroz rojito", almost the same as yours... Great idea about the corn, will give it a shot... Thank you...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Manuel (Café Fenix) | September 29, 2009 7:21 PM

Pati - I recently found your site and have added it to my favs. You suggested using Goya sauce in a recipe and I made the switch when I made sopa. WOW what a wonderful difference. Thank you and I'll look forward to visiting your site again and again.

Judy | June 27, 2010 12:32 PM

Hi Judy,
Thanks much! Yes, please come visit often!!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Judy | June 27, 2010 5:15 PM

Keep up the great work , I read few articles on this web site and I conceive that your blog is very interesting and contains bands of great info .

wardrobe designs | August 3, 2011 1:45 PM

Thanks Pati, we love this rice recipe! So so good.

Sandra | December 6, 2011 9:08 PM

Glad you all love it Sandra! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Sandra | December 8, 2011 2:27 PM

Pati, Thank you again for this site! I have been combing your recipes and copying them, since I did not write my Moms recipes down. This was the rice she always made and my sons favorite. In season we top it with fresh, sliced cantelope. My Mom's parents were from Spain and she always ate it like this. It adds a cool sweetness to the rice.
Muchisimas Gracias por tus recetas. Me has dado alegria...
Mimi

Mimi | February 20, 2012 12:11 PM

Thanks again for your lovely comments Mimi! The cantaloupe is a great addition!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Mimi | February 24, 2012 3:54 PM