It had been a while since I’d tasted the sweet flavor of horchata.  Too long, in fact.  If you’ve ever tasted it, or if you just like the Vampire Weekend song by that name, you know that it is worth spending hours on.  If you’ve never heard of it, imagine a sweet rice pudding – that you can drink over ice!  It somehow manages to be very sweet and still feel refreshing.

I found a recipe online that looked fairly easy to make.  Once I started to make the horchata, I discovered that the rice water had to sit for three hours, so I decided to make the entire dinner around a Mexican theme.  However, I didn’t want to make the classic go-to’s Americans usually think of when we hear the words “Mexican food”, like tacos or burritos.  I also knew I wanted to take a break from the mostly-vegetarian dishes I’d been cooking lately.  I turned to Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World for inspiration.

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After sifting through the Mexican recipes, I found a couple that looked interesting and had lists of ingredients that matched what we had in our cupboards.  I decided to make Chile-Fried Shrimp (fried shrimp with a slight bite) and Arroz a la Mexicana (a brightly-colored rice side-dish).

Here is how to make your very own Mexican dinner:

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Horchata

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup uncooked white long-grain rice
  2. 5 cups water
  3. ½ cup milk
  4. ½ Tablespoon vanilla etract
  5. ½ Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  6. 2/3 cup white sugar

Directions:

  1. Pour the rice and water into a blender and blend 1 minute, until the rice just begins to break up.
  2. Let rice and water stand at room temperature for a minimum of 3 hours.  (While it is standing you can work on the rest of the meal.)
  3. Strain the rice water into a pitcher and discard the rice.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
  5. Chill and stir right before serving.  Serve over ice.

That recipe makes 6 cups of Horchata.  You can buy rice water ahead, to cut down on prep time, but it is not necessary.  Also, you may want to add only ½ cup sugar if you do not like very extremely drinks.

 

Arroz a la Mexicana

Ingredients:

  1. 3 Tablespoons corn oil
  2. 2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed well and drained
  3. 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  4. 1 medium onion peeled
  5. 2 large tomatoes, cored, halved, and seeded
  6. 1 quart water
  7. salt and black pepper to taste.IMG_1324

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a lid over medium heat.
  2. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  It should have a crunchy texture and smell a bit like popcorn.  You may need to turn the heat down to medium-low so that it doesn’t burn.
  3. Meanwhile, put the garlic, onion, and tomatoes in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Add this mixture to the rice and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the water and bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 minutes.  (During this step, you might want to start work on the shrimp.)
  5. Fluff with a fork before serving and season with salt and pepper.

 

 

Chile-Fried Shrimp

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Ingredients:

  1. 2 tablespoons pure chile powder, like ancho or New Mexico
  2. Cayenne to taste
  3. 2 Tablespoons cornmeal
  4. Salt and black pepper to taste
  5. ½ cup corn oil or any other neutral oil
  6. 1 ½ – 2 pounds shrimp, peeled
  7. Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish, optional
  8. Lime or lemon wedges, optional

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Directions:

  1. Combine the chile powder, cayenne, cornmeal, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Toss the shrimp in the spice mixture to coat.  It works best to use your hands.
  3. Put the oil in a large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high.
  4. When the oil is hot (a pinch of cornmeal will sizzle), toss in about half of the shrimp or as many as will fit in one layer.
  5. Turn the heat to high and cook until brown on one side, then turn and brown on the other, adjusting the heat so the shrimps will brown and not burn – about 4-5 minutes total.
  6. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
  7. Garnish, if you choose, and serve.

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I served this meal with guacamole and chips to add a cool contrast to the warm, somewhat spicy flavors of the shrimp and rice.  This easily served four of us, leaving a good amount left over for another night.

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I hope you enjoy!

- Laura ‘16