Mama Grande’s Rice

My grandmother, or Mama Grande, lived in Donna, between Brownsville and McAllen, and we’d often go see her on Sundays. We’d take Highway 281, a two-lane road that runs parallel to the Rio Grande and that Dad called el camino militar . I remember sitting in the backseat of his ’57 Chevy for the 45-minute drive, no air-conditioning. Mama Grande was born in 1886, and she raised fourteen children. In her kitchen, she always had a pot of beans cooking, a stack of tortillas made with White Wings flour, and rice. She probably made two pots of rice a day, grinding the fresh cumin, garlic, and black pepper for it in her molcajete. She loved rice, sometimes even eating it cold. My mother learned the recipe and passed it down. Now when I want a taste of home, I make a batch of this rice and relive those weekend afternoons with Mama Grande.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 1/4 cups chicken broth, divided
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons tomato sauce

Heat oil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add rice and stir every 3 to 4 minutes until it turns golden brown. Meanwhile, put tomato, onion, and 1/4 cup broth in a food processor and blend until tomato is liquefied. Grind garlic and cumin seeds with a molcajete or mortar and pestle. Add the tomato mixture, the garlic and cumin, pepper, salt, tomato sauce, and remaining broth to rice. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for another 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork before serving. Serves 5 to 6.

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