Preparations before you start cooking should include: chopping all vegetables, opening cans or tubes, and cooking meats if you choose to make it a one-pot meal. The vegetables are pretty much up to your choice, think of Spanish Rice as being a tomato based pilaf. We use celery, onion and tomatoes regularly. I try to simplify meals in terms of the amount of dishes it soils so I usually add some shredded chicken breast or ground beef right before I throw the lid on. The proportions used for the rice and vegetables are entirely up to you. For my example I’ll be using 2c dry white rice, 1 small sweet yellow onion, 2 stalks of celery (thinly sliced), and 2-3 Roma tomatoes. Which means you’ll want to have 4c of water set aside, 1 can of tomato sauce or 1Tbsp of tomato paste, and your spices.
Spices are more of a preference(along with a lot of trial and error). Fiesta makes an awesome Spanish Rice Seasoning that you can use by itself and have a mildly flavorful rice. Since the bottle calls for 1Tbsp per cup of rice, you can run through a bottle very quickly so I usually mix up my own spices. 1Tbsp of Caldo de Tomate, 1tsp of black pepper, 1/2 tsp of cumin, 1-2 cloves of garlic(run through a press), 1 cube of cilantro bouillon and 1 cube of beef or chicken bouillon(if you are adding meat) are a good start. Beyond this, I don’t know how else to explain it other than it needs to smell right before you put your lid on.
As far as actual steps, there aren’t many. Heat up a large skillet over Medium High with 2Tbsp of vegetable oil, once it’s got the heated “sheen” add in your 2c of dry rice and stir it around the pan to get all the grains coated. It may take a few minutes but all the rice will become tanned colored and the oil will be evaporated. Add in your vegetables and give the onions a moment to become translucent. Then your spices and finally your tomato sauce/paste, keep a steady eye as you’ll need to be stirring constantly at this point, once the rice and vegetables become coated you’ll add in the 4c of water. Stir it up so that the water is wonderfully red. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to free up all the spices and grains from the doom of possibly getting burned to a crisp. At this point add in your optional meat with a round the pan stir. Bring it up to a medium boil for a minute or so, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes at least. No matter how much you want to, DON’T take off the lid to peek having a glass lid has the biggest advantage in this recipe. Twirl your lid around and you’ll be able to see if the rice has absorbed all the water. Be careful that some of the water is still around otherwise you’ll get burned crunchy bits at the bottom of the pan, which are a treat for some people but not in our family.
Here’s some errors and solutions for some problems I ran into while getting the hang of this recipe. If your rice is not fluffy you may not have browned the rice enough. If it’s crunchy you browned it too much or didn’t let it cook long enough. If the rice is gloopy, clumpy, or pudding-ish, you probably did a couple of things, too much oil, too much water, or not a high enough boil.