Arroz Anita

Rick Cooks Home Arroz Anita

Chileans eat rice and potatoes, but you are far more likely to be served a rice accompaniment to a meat than potatoes (although puré de papas -- mashed potatoes -- are often served). They like their rice light and fluffy, cook it in a chicken or vegetable broth, and frequenly add either vegetables (such as corn, peas, beans, julienned carrots) or noodle pieces.

An interesting history: during the California Gold Rush in 1849, San Francisco had a sizable Chilean community living near what is today Russian Hill. Chileans don't like sticky oriental rice, so their cantinas prepared rice their way using Chinese rice and noodles common in the city. This style of rice became popular throughout the city, and rice-a-roni was born. (The Golden Grain Co., owners of the Rice-A-Roni name, say their product is based on Armenian pilaf, but this dish is not a pilaf).

The primary ingredients are long-grain rice and thin pasta noodles. You can use somen (oriental wheat) noodles, vermicelli, or angel hair pasta. You can use chicken or vegetable broth for the liquid, or even boiling water and a boullion cube.

arrozanita.jpg (215325 bytes)It's prepared as you would prepare a rice pilaf, except for the following important differences:
1. Instead of adding the rice to the boiling liquid, the rice is sautéed and the liquid is added to it.
2. Once the liquid is added, do not stir. Leave it undisturbed to absorb the liquid on medium heat.
3. Do not fluff. This will cause the rice to dry out.

Other techiques for Chilean rice are to seal the pan lid with a kitchen or paper towel during the low cook, and to pace a heat diffuser (such as rangetop toaster) between the pan and the burner. The towel absorbs the excess steam from the rice, and the diffuser keeps the flame low enough to prevent the rice from burning.

Carol requested this recipe from her Chilean friend Anita Ramirez, who wrote it down on a paper bag (left). Hence the name "Arroz Anita."

It's usually served with a skillet-seared steak, such as steak a poivre. The skillet drippings are deglazed and poured over the rice when serving.

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Arroz Anita

*Serves 6*

olive oil
one handful (about 4 oz) fine noodles
(broken into short lengths)
2 c rice
1 ramen soup flavor packet
4 c boiling water
(or chicken or vegetable broth)

Heat the oil in a saucepan on high and sauté the noodle pieces until toasted. Add the rice and toast lightly. Season with salt and ramen soup flavor packet and mix well. Add the boiling water, reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered until all water is absorbed. Place a paper towel across the top of the pan, cover with a tight-fitting lid, place pan on a heat diffuser, reduce heat to very low, and cook for 12-18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, sear some steaks, deglaze, and serve the steaks with the sauce over the rice. Enjoy!