Confession: I am not one of those people who is obsessed with Chipotle. I sort of missed that moment when everyone learned the glories of a burrito bowl, but with the fast-casual chain scheduled for a four-hour nationwide shutdown today, I thought it might be time to catch up.
My fiancé, on the other hand, is quite different. He's sung Chipotle's praises countless times, and with that, the wonders of the chain's simple and citrusy rice.
And in developing and testing this recipe, I now get it. The best part about this rice is its versatility. It's kicked up with citrus juice and cilantro, but not so much that it overwhelms whatever you might pile onto it — it's meant to be a bed for a whole lot of other wonderful, flavorful things.
The extra-long, thin grains of basmati rice help keep things extra light and fluffy. After the rice is cooked, it's tossed in the smallest amount of olive oil to keep the grains separated (according to their website, Chipotle uses rice bran oil, although it's much more likely you have olive oil in your pantry). There's also the balance that's found in tossing the rice in both lime and lemon juice. Lime juice lends sweetness and just a touch of bitterness, while lemon juice adds a little sourness.
But the real secret to this famed rice isn't what you may think it is. It's not some special spice blend or magical cooking method — it's a bay leaf. Tuck one into the rice as it cooks and it imparts an herbal, slightly spicy aroma to the end result that will keep those lucky enough to dig into this rice wondering just what it is.
Chipotle Copycat Rice
Makes about 5 cups cooked rice
2 cups basmati rice (white or brown)
3 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Using a strainer, rinse the rice under cold, running water.
Boil water in a medium saucepan. Add the rice, bay leaf, and salt. Stir once, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for about 18 minutes for white rice and about 50 minutes for brown rice, until all of the water is absorbed.
Remove the pot from the heat and let steam, covered, for 5 minutes.
Uncover, remove the bay leaf, and fluff rice with a fork. Stir in the olive oil, citrus juice, and cilantro. Add more salt to taste if needed, and serve.
(Image credits: Sheela Prakash)