Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mexican Rice from the Internet

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA


We had this little dinner party.  It happens a lot.  And I had a busy morning and other stuff to do so I thought we'd "just have tacos."  But you know, just tacos sounds lame.


So the plan was I'd do seitan and beef.  Beef like how I did the beef fajitas, and seitan that had spent some quality time with some canned chipotle.   


And corn spoon bread, which, if I had photographed it, I'd have written up for ya'll, but it was my first time doing it since I quit boxed mixes and I wasn't sure it'd turn out.  It did, and I'll make it again sometime and tell you all about it.


So two types of tacos, spoon bread, and some black beans.  Just beans and some bacon fat and cilantro and cumin and onion.  And then all the fixins, with the lime and the cheeses and the tomato and lettuce and the salsa and the guacamole.  Basically, what I mean is we had to use the dinner table, two fold out trays and a side table.  I cooked like my mother cooks, which is to say plentifully. 

Oh and the rice.  But I can't make rice, I'm terrible at rice.  So I turned to the interwebs and my Googling got me this.  Mexican rice on Food.com. (it's Spanish rice, right?)  


I'm hesitant to follow these recipes word for word, because I generally feel like I have a clue about what I'm doing, but this time I followed the recipe verbatim and it totally worked out. People were praising the rice at dinner and praising the leftovers the next day.  This is the rice. 


I have opinons on that type of website, where they aggregate recipes from a bunch of sources.  I'm not particularly familiar with food.com, but I read through recipes on allrecipes.com and the other places where folks submit their dinners.  Generally, I'd rather get a recipe from a blogger I "trust" than one of these sites.  It's too bad, because bloggers aren't necessarily any better at cooking than folks who cook and don't write about it (I know, see this link), but I have no idea how good a cook any individual poster is, and I'm less likely to be able to go through what they've made before, and besides that, the real issue: I don't trust the ratings on those websites.


Why don't I trust the ratings?  Because people are fools.  No, not you, the other people.


Let me 'splain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up (in the voice of Inigo Montoya).  Nevermind, I'm 'splaining.


Someone else took the photos
A while back a blogger I like - and I can't pin down which of two it was, and can't find it on either site... if it's you, let me know and I'll give you credit - wrote a complaint about recipes for stuff we all know how to make, or with minor ingredient switches we could have figured out.  Sure, lots of reasonable people get it, but if you look at the comments on those submit-your-recipe sites, you'll see that not everyone is so with it. 


I know that you don't need my guidance or anyone else's to put collards in a quesadilla.  I know that if you can make a basic vinaigrette, you probably don't need me telling you how to make my tequila-lime vinaigrette.  You could figure it out yourself.


But I imagine you're all exactly like me.  Perhaps I have a limited imagination.  Perhaps I'm underestimating you, by lumping you in with me. 


I just cropped them until they were blurry.
I imagine sometimes you're thinking about dinner and you just start Googling around for ideas.  And this is when I expect you'll find this site.  Whether you're just going through a list of blogs and websites or just typing in search terms, maybe you're feeling uninspired and you're looking for something with kale and black beans, but you're not sure what.


Sure, you could have thought of adding kale to tortilla soup, but in that moment, you didn't.


But some other people out there aren't as quick-witted as you and me. 


Those are the people who rate recipes on that sort of site.  Those are the people who read a recipe for an omelet with spinach and ask the original poster if they can do it with chard, as though:


1. they need permission, and
2. they aren't able to compare the two in their own head and think about whether it sounds like it works.


They rate a recipe 5 stars and then write that they changed 9 things.   Those people ruin those sites. I want to be able to scroll through 100 recipes for Mexican rice (Spanish rice?) and pick the one that has 500 4 star reviews, and I want doing that to mean that 500 people made the recipe as stated and liked it enough to log in or make an account or whatever and rate it 4 stars. 

A while back, someone else wrote a post about recipe-commenters not being able to understand salt and their complaint that recipes turn out bland.


So here's the thing.  I imagine you know how to salt your food (or perhaps, work around that if you're a non-salt person.) I also imagine you know how to make substitutions.  Substitutions are important for three reasons:


It makes it more like I took them.
1. Maybe you don't like an ingredient
2. Maybe you don't have the ingredient on hand
3. Maybe you came up with something better


So when I say, "Here's another thing you can wrap into an egg roll or put on pizza or turn into salad dressing," I'm not saying, "This is some revolutionary thing I did and you should follow it step by step," but more like, "Oh, hey, there's also this, if you have these ingredients on hand."


I know you get it.  I know you are not those people, but those people make the internet more difficult. 


Short story long, I used every damn bowl and dish in the house to make tacos, and I found the best rice on the internet.  Here's that rice again, in case you missed it in the tirade above. 

click the thing you want to read about