Originally created 03/08/06

Spanish rice gets flavorful, spicy update



Spanish rice was the epitome of family fare in the 1970s.

At my house, thin pork chops were added to the rice as it cooked, creating a one-dish meal that graced our dinner table several times a month. My current next-door neighbor's mom made their Spanish rice heartier with sliced hot dogs. Either way, it wasn't gourmet fare.

Jump ahead to 2006, when Hispanic ingredients abound at supermarkets and specialty groceries. Today, chorizo sausage, with its fiery, garlicky bite, is available to all. It has led me to revisit Spanish rice. What I came up with is a recipe that my family loves.

Chorizo comes in two varieties: a raw version similar to American bulk breakfast sausage and a smoked version similar to pepperoni. Use the raw version in this recipe. If you're unable to purchase chorizo at your supermarket and don't have time to visit a Hispanic grocery, substitute hot or sweet Italian sausage and add half a teaspoon each of ground cumin and chili powder.

The chorizo is sauteed and drained. A colorful combination of diced bell peppers is sauteed in the same skillet. I used green, red and orange peppers , but you can use just one color. If you're short on time, you can purchase diced green bell pepper in the produce section of many supermarkets.

After the sausage and peppers are cooked, garlic, spicy Rotel tomatoes, water and a package of yellow rice mix are added. Using the flavorful tomatoes and rice mix makes your work in the kitchen a breeze.

When I developed the recipe, I used a can of stewed tomatoes labeled "Mexican" that were seasoned with garlic, jalapeno and cumin. Since then, I have been unable to locate this product and have substituted Rotel brand canned tomatoes with diced green chiles.

This colorful, flavorful dish can be served as a one-skillet entree. My favorite way to serve the rice, however, is as the base for paella - topping the rice with grilled lobster tails, chicken thighs or jumbo shrimp. You also can omit the chorizo for a lighter Spanish rice side dish.

Undated Spanish Rice

1 pound chorizo, casings removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ red bell pepper, diced

½ green bell pepper, diced

½ yellow bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 14.5-ounce can Rotel tomatoes or Mexican r ecipe stewed tomatoes (seasoned with jalapeno, garlic and cumin)

3 cups water

1 16-ounce package saffron yellow rice mix

Brown the chorizo in a large skillet, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until thoroughly cooked. Drain and set aside. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel and add the olive oil. Heat over medium-high. Add the diced bell peppers and garlic and saute until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Return the chorizo to the skillet and add the tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, add rice mix and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until rice is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 8 side dish servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 502 calories, 24 grams fat (8.5 grams saturated), 50 milligrams cholesterol, 791 milligrams sodium,

51 grams carbohydrates, 18 gram protein, 2 grams of dietary fiber.

Nutritional analysis provided by registered dietitian Rachel Brookshire, nutritional education specialist for the Richmond County School Nutrition Program, in conjunction with the Augusta Area Dietetic Association.

Coming Next Week: Creamy cauliflower soup gets a boost when the cauliflower is first roasted in the oven.

See Karin prepare the recipe at noon Tuesday on WJBF-TV (Channel 6).

Write to Karin Calloway in care of The Augusta Chronicle Newsroom, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928. Or send e-mail to karin.calloway@comcast.net. You can find previous Quick Cooking recipes through the online archive at augustachronicle.com/karin.