Recipe: Portuguese-Style Mint Rice

Recipe: Portuguese-Style Mint Rice

Betsy Andrews
Jul 19, 2017
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I don't know about your garden, but in summertime the mint in my own vegetable patch always threatens to take over. I love that sweet herb, but how many juleps can one gal make? Luckily I was in Portugal recently and I found that mint, or hortelã, as the Portuguese call it, was a common ingredient throughout the meal there. I ate it in soups, from a refreshing, chilled green melon soup to a lemony chicken sopa; it was paired with fava beans for fish; and, along with olive oil, it dressed a "carpaccio" of thin-sliced oranges for dessert.

But the very best minty dish I tried was the arroz de hortelã — mint rice — at Luar de Janeiro, a low-key, traditional restaurant in the Medieval town of Évora.

Olivia Prates, who has been chef-owner there for 45 years, claims to have invented the signature dish. I must say, in that case she's a genius because she created a dish that is so delicious and yet laughably simple to make. It requires just a few ingredients, and it comes together lickety-split. That's because, instead of long-simmering the rice, Prates goes for a quick, hard boil. After steaming the mint in the hot pot of rice, she serves the dish before the rice has fully absorbed all the liquid, for a wildly aromatic, pleasingly soupy side dish to grilled fish, lamb, or pork.

Look out, monster mint patch! I have a new recipe in my pocket, and I'm coming for you with my garden shears.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Rice in 10 Minutes?

This recipe cooks in about half the time of steamed rice, so it's important to maintain a full boil the whole time so the rice absorbs enough liquid. Expect a texture closer to risotto. Make this with chicken broth for a more flavorful dish or keep it vegetarian with water. You'll end up with a more neutral flavor, making it an ideal companion for richly flavored foods.

Portuguese-Style Mint Rice

Serves 4

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
1 tablespoon butter or lard
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves

Bring the broth or water, butter, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the rice and cook uncovered at a full boil, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes. Stir in the mint and boil until the rice is tender, about 1 minute more.

Remove from the heat, cover, and steam for 3 minutes — the texture will be looser and more similar to risotto rice than steamed rice. Remove the mint leaves if desired. Taste and season with more salt as needed.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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