One bad apple ruins the bunch is the old adage. One bad restaurant ruins almost the entire reputation of an entire culture’s food. That being said, Mexican food and its derivatives have gotten a bad rap because of fast food places selling Americanized pieces of culture, a dollar for a taco.
As a kid, I thought tacos were the end-all, be-all of Mexican food coming from stucco covered building filled with busy white teenagers working to fill orders for nachos and cinnamon covered puffed dough. It didn’t occur to me much later, when on a school trip to ethnic establishments to sample other cuisine that the little I knew about Mexican food was limited to what is considered to be street food by native Mexicans.
At this stage of my life, I categorize Mexican food in three ways: junk Mexican food, Tex-Mex, and authentic Mexican cuisine.
Junk Mexican food is food being produced by certain taco and burrito establishments. Tex-Mex is the hybrid cuisine of Mexican food being produced by Texas cooks. Tex-Mex included foods like chimichangas and nachos, as well as the introduction of cheddar cheese to recipes. Lastly, authentic Mexican food features fresh corn tortillas, tamales, carne asada and tostadas.
Of the three I listed, Tex-Mex is definitely my favorite. Tex-Mex proved to me that food highs exist. A food high is when the perfect combination of flavors explodes on your palate and takes you to an elevated state of mind.
My first ethereal experience of the culinary variety was devouring seafood enchiladas at Jose Tejas in Woodbridge, New Jersey. Something about that dish sent me over the moon and made me fall in love with Tex-Mex Food.
This week, I offer you a recipe that encompasses all three of my personal categories. Spanish rice, Mexican rice, or even the old arroz is a staple in all three. My favorite way to serve Mexican rice is with a little sour cream and refried beans.
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com, adapted by Jordan Lorraine
· 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
· 1 cup uncooked white rice
· 1 onion, chopped
· 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
· 3 gloves garlic
· 2 cups chicken broth
· 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes
· 3 medium green chiles, finely chopped and seeded
· 2 teaspoons chili powder, or to taste
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1 teaspoon cumin
1. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Sauté the rice, onion, garlic and peppers until rice is browned and vegetables tender.
2. Stir in water and tomatoes. Season with chili powder, cumin and salt. Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until rice is cooked and liquid absorbed.