I cook a lot of Mexican food, but one thing that's always been missing is the rice. Part of the problem might be that I've never really tried to cook your workaday Spanish rice... I can't decide if this is because 1) I don't really like Spanish rice all that much, or 2) all the recipes I've seen call for chicken stock, and I never had the chutzpah to go with veggie stock instead (I'm not a vegetarian myself, but I'm usually cooking for one). And while I eat plenty of plain white (jasmine) rice with various Asian cuisines, it just doesn't seem right on a Mexican plate.
At any rate, this rice solved my problem. It's contrasty enough (both in look and flavor) to really hold its own against whatever Mexican standby you've got as the main course. And it's distinctively Mexican, rather than kind of a generic catchall (eg Spanish rice) that's just there to occupy territory on your plate.
The one difficulty is getting your hands on some achiote paste. I couldn't find any myself, so I improvised a paste after looking at several (very different!) recipes online and comparing them to what I had in my cabinet. Annato is the key ingredient, to the point where one of the recipes called for simply soaking annato seeds, draining them, and then crushing them to make achiote paste. Since I don't have a good spice grinding solution in my kitchen, I just picked up ground annato and worked from there.
2 tbsp ground annatto
2 tsp oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cloves
the juice of one lemon
Simply stir these items together until they form a dryish paste, adding a little bit of water from the tap if necessary.
Arroz Rojo con Achiote
1/4 cup safflower oil
2 cups medium grain rice
1 14oz can of tomatoes (I use whole or diced)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, roasted and mashed
1 tbsp achiote paste
1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin 1-inch strips
Add tomatoes, onions, garlic, and achiote paste to a blender; blend until smooth. Pass the mixture through a sieve.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and fry, stirring, until the color changes to a light gold (about 5 minutes).
Stir in the strained tomato/achiote mixture and fry until it is absorbed into the rice.
Add the stock and the bell peppers. Cover, reduce to medium-low heat and cook for about 30 minutes.
You should have enough rice to serve about six people as a side dish. We had this most recently with stacked green enchiladas and some tasty black beans.