The problem with being a self-described “cookbook cook” is that it takes a little more oomph for me to step outside the assurance of my books and just create a recipe.
The other night, while making Black Bean Tostadas (recipe coming soon), I started imagining a good hearty rice dish as a side. I almost started to go through the tedium of looking up “rice” in my cookbooks when I realized I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, why not just make it?
So I did. And as with most things I have made without a recipe, I was very pleased with how it turned out. (Note to self: cook more often without a recipe.) I included some of my favorite flavors in here but, of course, this dish is infinitely adaptable. I happen to love the slight punch and tang of canned green chiles, but if you like more spice, by all means add a fresh jalapeño or two. I used queso fresco partly because I also needed it for the tostadas, but partly because I love how mild it is. But you could certainly use Cheddar or Monterey Jack. Like more cheese? Add more and sprinkle some over the top before baking.
A rice note. Unless I am making risotto or something where I specifically want brown rice (or if I am using sushi rice for this dish), I almost always use basmati rice. I think it fluffs up beautifully and has terrific flavor. Trader Joe’s has nice big (and affordable) bags of it.
One Year Ago: Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Chickpeas
Baked Rice with Chiles and Pinto Beans
Dana Treat Original
Canola or other neutral tasting oil
Small red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup white rice
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 7-oz. can diced green chiles
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¾ cup queso fresco, crumbled
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. (I used a 3 quart.) Add just enough oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and a healthy pinch of salt. Sauté until softened, then add the garlic. Cook for another 3 minutes, then add the oregano. Sauté for another minute. Add the rice and toss to coat with the fat and herbs, then pour in the water or stock. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Oil an 8×8 baking dish. Once the rice is done cooking, allow it to sit, off the heat, for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and, using a fork, carefully fluff the rice. Add the chiles and the beans and, without mushing the rice, carefully stir them in. Sprinkle on the cheese and cilantro and stir them in.
Scrape the rice mixture into the prepared pan, cover with foil, then bake until the cheese is starting to melt and the dish is hot throughout, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
(This is totally the kind of dish you could make a day ahead. Prepare up through putting the finished rice in the baking dish, allow the whole thing to cool, cover with foil, then refrigerate overnight. From there, just put it directly into the oven and you will need to add 5-10 minutes to the baking time.)