May 3, 2011

Mexican Green Rice for A Cinco de Mayo Celebration {Naptime Entertaining}

Mexican Green Rice

The Occasion: Friends coming over for a casual early dinner party with kids.

Menu: Fish Tacos, Roasted Asparagus, Guacamole, Salsa, Mexican Green Rice, Tres Leches Cake, Red Wine Sangria.

Attendees: Party of 7, with kids!

Naptime Goals: Bake cake, trim asparagus, make the green sauce for the rice, cook the onions and peppers for the tacos.

Our family entertaining style is casual with a capital “c.” I mean, who wants to have kids at a formal dinner party where they are expected to be quiet and well-behaved at the table. Not me! Let the kids run around the yard, I say, the more relaxed the better. Last weekend we had friends over for an easy dinner party and I decided to serve a Cinco de Mayo inspired menu. We called it our Treinta de Abril Fiesta! Mexican food always goes well with casual entertaining and it is so much fun to make.

During naptime I focused on the things I could make ahead of time: the cake, the dips — including my go-to guacamole — and the sauce for the rice. The green sauce for the rice is especially easy to whip up in advance and I make it quite a lot in the summer. I love adding as many fresh herbs as possible and throwing in a good amount of heat depending on what I think people can handle. In this case I knew our guests were foodies so I added an extra kick with a plenty of poblano peppers and a pinch of red pepper. When I want a milder rice I double down on the cilantro and salt and keep the pepper quotient to a minimum.

Chips

When we got our grill last summer I attempted my first ever grilled fish tacos and they were a bit ho-hum. In fact, they were downright boring. For this party I wanted to try something new, and, hopefully, more exciting. I read through several recipes online and decided to take a stab at Merrill’s recipe from Food52. It was very straightforward and sounded absolutely delicious, the perfect recipe to experiment with and serve to friends. To save time once the guests arrived I cooked the onions and peppers during naptime. It made things much easier once our guests arrived and we were ready to speedily assemble our tacos fresh off the grill. They were a huge hit.

To serve our meal I placed the salad and rice on a counter to serve buffet style and set the bowls of salsa and guacamole in the center of the dinner table. I even picked up some tortilla bowls for the salsa and guac at our local mexican take away down the street (which, truth be told, I was prepared to run over to in case the fish tacos didn’t work out), for an extra-festive touch. With a fresh pitcher of sangria being passed around – virgin lemonade for the kids, of course – we all had a fun, easy meal to ring in spring.

Recipe

Mexican Green Rice

adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 fresh poblano chiles, seeds and roughly chopped
20 sprigs cilantro, stems discarded
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups white rice
2 small white onions, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced

Instructions

1. Prepare the sauce: Bring the chicken broth, salt and chiles to a boil over medium heat and simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the chiles are softened. Pour the broth and chiles into a blender, add the cilantro and puree until liquefied. Pour the chile liquid through a strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout. This liquid can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to one day.

2. To make the rice: Add the olive oil, onion and garlic to the pan and simmer for about 2 minutes, then add the rice and stir it to make sure the grains are completely coated. Then add in the chile liquid and simmer the rice on medium-low with the pot covered for about 20 minutes, or until the grains are soft. Fluff with a fork prior to serving.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

We debated whether to serve the rice in the tacos or alongside the tacos and I tried both ways. I preferred it on the side but would consider stuffing it into the tortillas if I were rolling them up and baking them like enchiladas.

Naptime Stopwatch

20 minutes to make the sauce, 20 minutes to cook the rice.

Naptime Reviews

My daughter was a bit suspicious of the green rice but gave it a small try. The adults loved it. I saved the leftovers and found them easy to reheat the next day for lunch.