Before I talk about Mexican Rice, I’d like to tell you a little bit about Martha Dudley. Martha was a long-time friend of my late mother-in-law Pat, and she was known for her welcoming nature and amazing Mexican cooking. If you got invited to the Dudley’s for dinner, you counted the days till Bob and Martha’s party and talked about the incredible food (and margaritas) for weeks after. Even though Pat and Martha are no longer with us, I love being able to think of them often and we all still talk about Martha’s delicious food (how did NONE of us get her recipe for Enchiladas?). But besides being an excellent cook, Martha was a fun, friendly Doris Day-ish looking woman who made me feel like we were great friends from the moment I first met her. She and Pat, who I’d say was the Lauren Bacall to Martha’s Doris, were the type of friends we all hope to have and be, especially in our later years. They were both elementary school teachers, which is a lifelong bond in itself. Both slim and hard to keep up with, they seemed always on the go. To hear them discuss memories from their teaching careers and talk about their latest golfing excursion was enjoyable and amusing. I thought they were accomplished at golf (they went so often) until the time Pat said “Oh we’re not good, in fact we’re actually terrible at it, but we don’t care, we still enjoy it”. Typical, both of these women were fearless and unaffected. And they were such close friends; after Martha’s shocking sudden illness and death, who knew Pat would join her with an equally quick terminal illness less than a year later. Coincidence, of course. But almost fitting as they seemed two peas in a pod.
Even though I just expounded about Martha’s excellent Mexican cooking, this recipe isn’t hers. Pat actually made this Mexican Rice for us one time and since anything excellent that was remotely Mexican was attributed to Martha, we all asked if it was her recipe. Pat was actually quite happy to take the credit herself and she knew if we thought it was a Martha Dudley recipe, it was definitely a keeper.
Since then I’ve made Mexican Rice so many times that I think almost everyone I know has tried it once. For sure everyone in my family and especially my husband’s family is familiar with it. Mexican Rice (probably more Tex Mex) is one of those recipes that quickly becomes a staple because it comes together in one dish in a few seconds, plus it goes with almost everything and everyone loves it. I had once shared it with a mom at my son’s elementary school and a few years later, seeing her at the local grocer she told me she still makes this rice “all the time!”. She actually didn’t remember my name, but she still remembered the fabulous rice recipe. 🙂
The ingredient list for Mexican Rice is simple; long grain rice, an onion, some Rotel tomatoes, green or black olives, cumin, olive oil and some shredded cheddar. Here are a few modifications that work well. First of all, the recipe is excellent with or without onions, so if you either don’t like them or don’t feel like dicing and just want a recipe that’s basically dump and bake, feel free to omit it. I think Manzanilla olives (green olives with pimentos) make this dish. Black olives add no flavor here really but not everyone likes green olives. I’ve made the recipe with green olives on half the rice and black on the other half, to satisfy everyone. And last, the original recipe adds cheddar cheese before baking but I think you’ll like it better if you toss in the cheese just before serving. You can also leave out the cheese, which happens to be my family’s preference.
The recipe gets baked for 45 minutes, covered. Then is finished uncovered for a few minutes to help absorb any remaining water. If you’re making this rice to take to a party, just scoop it all into a 2-quart dish after the first 45 minutes of cooking and let the rest of the moisture absorb during transport.
Even though this started as a post for some pretty awesome rice, it quickly became a reminder to me how lasting and binding good memories can be and how recipes and food shared from the ones we love help keep those loved ones with us forever. Stay tuned for a special recipe from my great-grandma Lou. Food can truly become part of your legacy. I hope you like the Mexican Rice recipe; who knows, it might become an heirloom in your family.
- 1 cup long grain rice (I've used brown rice but will tell you that white rice tastes better here)
- 2- 10 oz. cans Rotel Tomatoes (or other brand of tomatoes with green chiles) See note below
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sliced olives, black or green pimento (I recommend green!)
- ¼ cup light olive or canola oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, optional
- Cook's note: For a good amount of heat, use 2 cans of Original Rotel Tomatoes, for no heat, use 2 cans Mild Rotel Tomatoes. I find the best combo is one can Original and one can Mild. Just a tiny hint of heat, but not too much.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place all ingredients except the cheese in the pan and stir until well combined. Cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake covered for 45 minutes. Remove foil and stir again. Cook uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes until rice is tender.
- Sprinkle grated cheese over the top just before serving, if desired.
- Leftovers are even better!