Rice dishes in Mexico range from plain white to brightly hued pilafs that include vegetables, herbs, spices, and flavorful stocks. Arroz amarillo (yellow rice) gets its stunning sunset look from oil that has been infused with achiote (annatto) seeds. The color is reminiscent of the Aztec marigold (cempasúchil), a fall flower associated with día de los muertos.
A few general tips on making rice: A heavy saucepan with a well-fitting lid is essential for the rice to turn out well. Once the lid is in place, it should not be removed until the cooking time has elapsed. The rice should also rest before serving for half the time it was cooked (for example, rice cooked 20 minutes should rest 10). And though rice will cook well on a stovetop, many professional chefs suggest it is even easier to bake for the same length of time in a 375 degrees oven.
Makes 8 to 10 cups
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons annatto seed
2 cups long grain white rice
1⁄3 cup onion, small dice
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the oil in a heavy 4 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the annatto seed and stir until the oil has been infused with a deep yellow color. Remove and discard the annatto seed. Add the rice and onion to the saucepan and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 additional minute.
Add 4 cups (1 liter) water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Add butter, fluff the rice with a fork, cover, and let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Note: The rice can also be cooked for the same length of time on a stovetop, but pay close attention to the heat level to avoid boiling over or scorching.