Turmeric is used in Southeast Asia, annatto is popular in Latin America and the Caribbean while saffron is added in South Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking.
In this recipe, annatto seeds are heated gently in oil to render color. The seeds are scooped out leaving the bright red-orange oil in the pan.
Onion and garlic are sauteed to give the oil flavor before the rest of the vegetables are added. I used carrot cubes and green peas but feel free to substitute your preferred combination of vegetables. Bell peppers, asparagus, green beans and corn are all good choices.
Next comes the rice. Almost any rice can be used. White, brown, red, black. Short, medium or long grain. But since the final color of the dish defines it, white rice is the most logical choice. I chose Basmati, a long grain rice, because long grain rice is the least starchy and, therefore, the most unlikely to clamp during cooking.
To give the rice better flavor and more nutrients, chicken broth rather than plain water is poured in. The rice grains are left to soak up the liquid, plump up and double or even triple in volume. If the rice-liquid ratio is correct, by the time the rice is done, there should be no visible liquid left.
Arroz amarillo (yellow rice) con achiote
- Pour the oil into a shallow pan and sprinkle in the annatto seeds.
- Over low heat, allow the annatto seeds to render color.
- Scoop out the annatto seeds and discard.
- Set the heat to medium, add the garlic and onion to the oil, and cook gently until slightly softened.
- Add the carrot cubes and peas.
- Add the rice. Toss repeatedly to coat each grain of rice with the oil. Cook for a few minutes.
- Pour in the broth. Taste; add salt and pepper, as needed.
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.
- When the rice is done, fluff up the grains using a fork, cover the pan loosely and leave for another ten minutes.
- Serve the arroz amarillo con achiote hot. It is great by itself or with anything and everything — meat, vegetables, seafood.