I did it. It took 4 tries, but I did it.
Leila has a love beyond measure for the Mexican rice from Baja Fresh. She'll order the the cheese quesadilla, but what she really wants is the biggest side of orange rice they will sell. Then she likes to eat it on chips, or with a spoon, or one grain at a time with her fingers, as long as it gets into her mouth. It finally occurred to me, after having spent probably hundreds of dollars on rice at Baja Fresh, that I could probably recreate this culinary marvel at home. According to Leila, who has taste-tested every batch, I have done it, and we should never have to buy a side of rice again.
The first batch tasted good, but was too mushy and wet. The second batch was the right texture and consistency, but did not taste as good as the first batch. The third batch was 95% there, but I had the sack to put actual onions in it, and even though they were minced to within an inch of their little onion lives, their sliminess made the rice almost inedible. Jeez, Louise! We also learned that tomato paste looked incredibly nasty when squeezed from a tube into warm chick stock, so don't do this.
So here, for all eternity, is the final recipe for Leila's Baja Fresh rice, without the pesky quesadilla.
2 tablespoons vegitable oil
1 cup of long grain rice (I tried rinsing it, and not rinsing it, it made no difference)
1 cup of chicken stock
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder (or 1/3 of an actual onion, minced fine, if you're feeling sassy)
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Preheat oven to 350. Sauté the rice in the oil in a pot for 6 - 8 minutes over medium heat, stirring often. Add the onion powder, cumin and salt, and stir for another minute or so. Add the chicken stock and tomato sauce, bring to a boil. Put the lid on the pot, and put the whole shebang in the oven. After 10 minutes, open the pot and stir, then replace the lid and bake for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, impress your friends and relatives.
I will probably be asked to make this 2 - 3 times a week, and I suppose I could make a double recipe. Leila will probably get sick of it after about a month, and then she will never want Mexican rice again, but for now, I've nailed it.