I’m a sucker for Mexican food. Always have been. Whether it’s authentic Mexican or the chili-infused American variety, it’s hard to go wrong. The problem is that Mexican food usually comes with rice and beans. Ever since I was little I’ve never liked rice. It’s a texture thing. Mom the Short Order Cook used to make me Mac’n’Cheese or baked potatoes at rice meals. Rice only gave in to stuffing as the worst side dish that wasn’t green or orange.

So alas, my favorite kind of food is stuck with one of my least favorite side dishes. Worse, the side dish in particular is not always easy to keep segregated from everything else. So for years I’ve been ordering two helpings of refried beans rather than rice. The only problem with this substitution is that while I like refried beans I don’t usually want or need two helpings of it. Also, refried beans can be kind of bland and if you dump it in hot sauce like I do it can get soupy. Nonetheless, I’d usually order two helpings of refried beans and eat a little more than half of it.

One of the habits that Mexican restaurants in Estacado have is that on every plate they offer they stick shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes on the corner of the plate. Usually cheap lettuce at that. This lettuce has the tendency to get enmeshed into the plate and can honestly ruin it for me because it just doesn’t seem like it belongs.

Most restaurants are pretty good about making a single substitution, but once you’re asking for two or more it starts getting a little more dicey. Either you forget all the particulars or they do, but the rate at which your plate complies with your preferences falls from about 95% for one substitution to about 70% for two.

I’d tried mixing the rice and the refried beans before, but in the end the rice was just too much. What I didn’t figure but should have was that it wasn’t necessarily that the rice was too much, but that there was too much rice. A 1:1 relationship of helpings between rice and beans simply doesn’t work, but if you only take half the rice and make sure to save some of the cheese from the main entre, the three compliment each other extraordinarily well. The rice adds structure to the beans, making it a little more solid. The texture that I don’t like in rice counters the texturelessness of the beans wonderfully. The cheese and chili/verde sauce from holds it all together. Best yet, these three things together make something solid enough that you can pretty much add however much hot sauce that you want.

Last Saturday night I had so much hot sauce that my stomach was in agony all day Sunday. It came at a price, but it was nonetheless beautiful.

Category: Kitchen

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2 Responses to The Secret of the Mexican Plate

  1. Beth says:

    yeah, I had the same problem with Mexican restaurants. And found the same thing. My problem with Mexican restaurant rice isn’t the way it’s cooked. I’m Puerto Rican and grew up making rice differently, if it’s not made that way, it just doesn’t taste right.

  2. logtar says:

    Agreed, Mexican rice is just a different kind of rice… in South America we prefer the long grain rice and it is cooked a little bit different (Mexican rice is overcooked IMHO). The easy way is to always say all beans, but that has other side effects.

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