Mexican Rice with Charred Tomatoes, Chiles, and Onion

Mexican Rice with Charred Tomatoes, Chiles, and Onion

From Cook’s Illustrated. Published September 1, 2004.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

Because the spiciness of jalapeños varies from chile to chile, we try to control the heat by removing the ribs and seeds (the source of most of the heat) from those chiles that are cooked in the rice. Use an ovensafe pot about 12 inches in diameter so that the rice cooks evenly and in the time indicated. The pot’s depth is less important than its diameter; we’ve successfully used both a straight-sided sauté pan and a Dutch oven. Whichever type of pot you use, it should have a tight-fitting, ovensafe lid. Vegetable broth can be substituted for chicken broth. The vegetables are charred in a cast-iron skillet, which gives the finished dish a deeper color and a slightly toasty, smoky flavor. A cast-iron skillet works best for toasting the vegetables; a traditional or even a nonstick skillet will be left with burnt spots that are difficult to remove, even with vigorous scrubbing.


2 ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces), cored
1 medium white onion , peeled and halved crosswise, thin end halved lengthwise, thick end quartered lengthwise
6 cloves garlic , unpeeled and scrubbed
3 medium jalapeño chiles , 2 halved with ribs and seeds removed, 1 minced with ribs and seeds
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth , or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime cut into wedges, for serving


  1. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and halved chiles and toast the vegetables, using tongs to turn them frequently, until softened and almost completely blackened, about 10 minutes for the tomatoes and 15 to 20 minutes for the other vegetables. When cool enough to handle, trim the root ends from the onion and halve each piece. Remove the skins from the garlic and mince. Mince the jalapeños.

  2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Process the toasted tomato and onion in a food processor until smooth and thoroughly pureed, about 15 seconds, scraping down the bowl if necessary. Transfer the mixture to a liquid measuring cup; you should have 2 cups (if necessary, spoon off any excess so that the volume equals 2 cups).

  3. Place rice in large fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear, about 1 1/2 minutes. Shake rice vigorously in strainer to remove all excess water.

  4. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed ovensafe 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven with tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, 1 to 2 minutes. Drop 3 or 4 grains rice in oil; if grains sizzle, oil is ready. Add rice and fry, stirring frequently, until rice is light golden and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and seeded minced jalapeños; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in pureed tomatoes and onions, chicken broth, tomato paste, and salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cover pan and transfer to oven; bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes.

  5. Stir in cilantro and reserved minced jalapeño with seeds to taste. Serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately.