Green Poblano Rice
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Rice comes in a lot of different forms – no surprise really, given its prominence as a staple grain throughout much of the world. There dozens of different rice varieties (many with very distinctive flavours), and and endless number of techniques to prepare them. But I think I’m like a lot of people when I say that I tend to think of rice in two forms: ultra-simple, or really fancy. In the former category, you’ve got simple boiled/steamed rice, aka our go-to method or preparation. Turn on the rice cooker and you’ve got the essential accompaniment to all sorts of dishes. In the latter category you’ve got your full-on fancy rice-based meals – fried rice, pilaf, etc. But there’s an often-forgotten middle ground in the world of rice, and it really shines in Mexican cooking.
Mexican rice dishes are generally still sides (though they make great breakfasts and lunches with the addition of an egg or some beans), but they’ve got a lot of added flavour. There are two big keys to drawing flavour into the rice – cooking the raw rice in oil, and using a flavourful cooking liquid (more on these techniques in the Recipe Notes below). These two factors add a lot of dimension to something so simple, and I can promise that this rice won’t sit on the plate in sad neglect. In this case, the cooking liquid is flavoured by poblano pepper and cilantro – and if you’re a little on-the-fence about cilantro, let me tell you that this does not end up with an overwhelmingly strong cilantro taste. A certain percentage of the population is genetically predisposed to find the taste of cilantro overwhelmingly soapy (you poor sods), but it seems to me that certain preparation methods reduce or eliminate this effect entirely. Because I love cilantro I can’t really comment on this with confidence, but I’d love to have someone cilantro-averse try this out. I think it might be surprising. If you do give it a shot, let me know in the comments (or you can get in touch with me by email [[email protected]] or on twitter, facebook, or instagram.
Don’t let rice languish on the side of your plate. Get a poblano pepper, some cilantro, and let it shine. Because this rice will vie for your attention. In fact, it wants to rock your world. It will battle the main course for gustatory supremacy. You’d better make a lot, because it just might win.
I’ve adapted several recipes from Pati Jinich‘s two books this month (I met her on the tour for her new book, “Mexican Today”), and this rice dish is based on one found in her book “Pati’s Mexican Kitchen.” I’ve made several changes and modified a number of ingredients so that they’re represented by weight instead of number. Her books are full of excellent, accessible Mexican cooking, and if you’re looking for a good resource to help you explore Mexican cooking further, I highly recommend her work, including her TV show on PBS.
The techniques involved in making this style of rice are not particularly complicated, but they do take a little attention. I’ve been a little spoiled ever since I bought a rice cooker (which you can’t use here), but I used to cook all of my rice in a pot on the stove, and I can tell you this is only slightly more difficult.
Ensure that you get the amount of liquid right before you do anything else. You’ll probably end up with about 1 cup of green juice from the poblano and cilantro. If so, you’ll need an additional 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock. If you end up with more or less than the 1 cup of juice, you’ll need to adjust the amount of stock accordingly.
Once you’ve figured out the cooking liquid situation, you’ll need to make sure you toast the rice properly. Too little time in the oil and it won’t cook enough or develop the right flavours. Too much and it will burn. You’re going to want to aim for the point where most of the rice grains are an opaque, milky white colour, with a pleasant nutty aroma. If a few grains get a little brown it’s fine, but you want to avoid overly toasting or charring them.
Once you’ve added the cooking liquid, you’ll want to make sure that you cook the rice (covered) on the lowest heat you can manage so that the bottom doesn’t char. The rice should be moist when finished, but not mushy – you want it to have just a little bit of ‘al dente’ bite to it. If the rice is overly firm, you can add a little extra water to finish it (see the instructions for more detail). Once your rice is done, make sure to let it rest for a while, then fluff it up a bit with a fork to serve.
Most of the ingredients here are pretty easy to find. Poblano peppers are sometimes sold as pasilla peppers, even though the two are completely different. A pasilla pepper is a dried chilaca chili pepper, and not a fresh pepper at all. If you see a large, long, fresh green pepper being sold as a pasilla, it’s probably a poblano. I’ve specified the amount of poblano pepper you want by weight, as they vary quite a bit in size (though oddly enough, the variation seems to be in batches, with one store having all one size or another). About 4 medium-sized peppers will do the job.
Make sure you use long-grain white rice. Short grain rices tend to be much stickier when cooked, and won’t ‘fluff’ up properly at the end. You can substitute jasmine rice. I haven’t tried basmati rice yet, but I think you’d be able to substitute it as well.
Use a good quality chicken or vegetable stock. I normally don’t use full-salt stocks, as I find them overwhelmingly salty, but in this case you could probably get away with it (though you may want to omit the 1/2 teaspoon of added salt). If you do use a homemade or reduced-salt stock, you’re going to want to adjust the salt to taste (try a bit of the broth once everything has been added to the pot).
SERVING AND VARIATIONS
A jalapeño pepper added to the juicing stage will add a little heat to the rice, if that’s something you’re looking for. Some recipes call for roasted poblanos instead of raw ones, and you could certainly give that a shot if you like.
To serve, you can top the rice with a little chopped cilantro, some diced jalapeño or seranno, or a little crumbled cheese (cotija would be great, but a bit of mild feta would work well too). For a more substantial meal, you could serve this with a fried egg (my personal recommendation) or some refried beans. This keeps and reheats very well, so don’t be afraid to make a little extra – you’ll want it for breakfast the next day anyway.
Note that the nutritional information shown does not include egg, cheese, or any other topping ingredients.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
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Rice doesn't have to be a dull side dish. Poblanos and cilantro provide the base for a green rice that's packed with flavour but easy to prepare.
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- 300 g poblano peppers (about 4 medium peppers)
- 25 g cilantro (about 4 small plants or 20 large stems)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste
- 3.25 cups chicken stock (approximately - see note) or substitute vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 100 g white onion (~1/4 cup) diced
- 2 tbsp lime juice freshly squeezed
- fried egg to serve (optional)
- cotija or queso fresco cheese to serve (optional)
Soak the rice in lukewarm water for 2-3 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly (until the water running off of the rice is clear).
Combine the poblanos, cilantro, garlic, and salt in a food processor or blender. Add 1/4 cup of stock and process until smooth (it's difficult to completely break down the peppers, but aim for something fairly smooth). Press the puree against a fine sieve over a bowl in order to extract as much juice as possible. You should have approximately 1 cup of liquid from the previous step - if you have more or less, you'll adjust the amount of chicken stock you use in the next step.
Measure out 3 cups (or more or less if necessary depending on the amount of liquid you have from the previous step) to make 4 cups of liquid total. Keep the stock and the vegetable juice separate.
Heat the oil in medium saucepan until very hot but not smoking. Add the rice and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. The toasted rice should begin to smell nutty, and will begin to turn an opaque white. A few grains may begin to brown slightly, but if you start to see too much browning, reduce the heat and proceed immediately to the next step.
Add the onion to the rice and saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Pour the pureed poblano mixture into the pot and stir. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. The colour should deepen slightly, and most of the liquid should be absorbed by the rice. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and lime juice and bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to the lowest simmer that you can. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is still moist; about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, check the texture of the rice. A tiny bit of 'al dente' bite is good, but if the rice is too crisp, add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pot and simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. Once the rice is finished, allow it to rest, covered, for 5-10 minutes.
To serve, fluff the rice with a fork. Serve as is, or garnished with a little cheese. If you want to make a meal out of it (especially a great breakfast), serve topped with a fried egg (leftovers are fantastic when warmed through and served this way).