Friday, August 14, 2009

Aug 14: Daring Cooks' Spanish Rice

Time for another Daring Cooks' Challenge!

This months Daring Cooks' Challenge is brought to us by Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes. She has chosen a delicious Spanish recipe, Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish and Artichokes by José Andrés, one of the most important Spanish Chefs at the moment.

The recipe is from his US TV show, Made in Spain.

* Note: I substituted shrimp in place of the cuttlefish. Cuttlefish is a difficult ingredient to find locally.

This dish involves three main components - Sofregit (which is used in the main dish), the main rice dish and Allioli (a condiment). Since sofregit is needed for the main dish, I made sofregit first.

Sofregit (a well cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and may at times different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms)-

Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour

2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 Bay leaf
Touch of ground cumin
Touch of dried oregano


Practicing my knife skills. A very straight forward recipe. Cut stuff up and cook it down. Salt as needed.

1. Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
2. Taste and salt if necessary.

The finished sofregit.

While the sofregit was cooking, the next step was to make the Allioi. We have two options, a traditional recipe and a modern version. Traditional is the way I went... Who am I to question tradition?

Allioli is the optional part of the recipe. You must choose one of the two recipes given, even though I highly recommend you to try traditional one. Allioli is served together with the rice and it gives a very nice taste.

Allioli (Traditional recipe)
Cooking time: 20 min approx.

4 garlic cloves, peeled
Pinch of salt
Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)


1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
2. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
5. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
6. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

Actually, I cheated with the mortar and pestle step, so much for being "traditional". Since I didn't have a mortar and pestle, I used a grating plate to break down the garlic into a puree. Now it's all about mixing the other ingredients together.

An improvised mortar and pestle, mainly used to mix in the olive oil as I drizzled it in drop by drop. A plastic salsa bowl and the end of a knife.

My finished sauce... I estimate I added about 2 T of olive oil

José's tips for traditional recipe: It's hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don't give up. It's worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you're adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

Modern recipe included for reference. When I see Aioli on a restaurant menu, I envision garlic mayonnaise.

Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe)
Cooking time: 3-4 minutes

* 1 small egg
* 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
* 1 garlic clove, peeled
* 1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
* Salt to taste


1. Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
3. Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
4. Little by little, add what's left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
5. If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
6. Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
7. The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
8. Add salt to taste.

José's tips for modern recipe:
(1) If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.
(2) What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don't throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for a fish or vegetable. But if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another beaker and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted.

Finally, onto cooking the Challenge dish!!!

Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish and Artichokes (Modified to use shrimp)
Ingredients (serves 4):

4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
1 glass of white wine
2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh) [1 lb 61/70 shrimp]
300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.
Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice) [3 C liquid per 1 C rice ! Wow! I usually use a 1.5 C of liquid to 1 C rice. This recipe uses almost double what I would use. However, I'll stick with the recipe and keep the faith. :-) Also, I made a shrimp stock, about 3 C, and supplemented the remaining liquid with chicken broth.]
Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)


1. Cut the cuttlefish in little strips. [Shrimp was shelled and deviened]
2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish [shrimp] in the pan.

Sauteed shrimp and, to avoid overcooking all of the shrimp, reserve half for later.

3. If you use fresh artichokes, cut artichokes in eights.

I used canned artichokes from Spain which seemed appropriate. Some of the hearts included leaves which were a little fibrous. I used a shear to cut off the leaves and reserved the hearts.

4. Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.

Mushrooms and artichoke hearts added to the shrimp in the pan.

5. Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
6. Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
7. Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
8. Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
9. Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
10. Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.

Brought the broth and veg mixture to a full boil before adding the medium grain rice.

I didn't find the Spanish rice mentioned. Researching the Internet, medium grain rice is a recommended substitution for paella.

Weighing out 200 g of rice, worked out to 1 1/2 C of medium grain rice, instead of 2 C. Using the same liquid to rice ratio, that worked out to 4 1/2 C liquid (broth, shrimp stock and saffron tea)

11. Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.

Soaking the saffron - according to Jose, this step is not needed, but I felt it's always a good thing to do. A couple pinches of saffron in 1/4 C hot water. Allowed to sit about 1 hour.

Adding the saffron infused liquid into the cooking rice. A gentle stir to spread the liquid throughout the dish.

12. Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)

Added the partially cooked shrimp back into the rice and allowed to "simmer." At 8 minutes, the rice was still a little crunchy. I estimate this dish simmered for 30 minutes to cook the medium grain rice completely.

13. Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.

The cooked dish and ready for plating.

Olga’s Tips:
(1) In Spain, rice is not stirred as often as it is when cooking Italian risotto. You must stir it once or twice maximum. This tip is valid for all Spanish rice dishes like paella, arròs negre, arròs a banda…
(2) When cooking the alternative style you can change the cuttlefish or squid for diced potato.
(3) If you can’t find cuttlefish or squid, or you’re not able to eat them because of allergies, you can try to substitute them for chicken or vegetables at your choice.
(4) Sofregit can be done in advance. You can keep it in the fridge or even freeze it.
(5) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
(6) To watch how Jose Andres cooks this dish click here.
(7) To tone down the taste when you do it by hand in a mortar, then add an egg yolk. If you want to tone it down in the alternative way use milk or soy milk. Anyway, the best alternative way is the original oil and garlic alone.
(8) Allioli must be consumed during the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it.

Since I used shrimp, a common use for the shells is to make a stock.

Shrimp Stock
Shells from 1 lb of shrimp
1/2 C Onion, chopped
1/4 C Celery, chopped
1/4 C Carrot, chopped
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 C Mushroom bits
Pinch of Thyme, dried
Two pinches of Parsley, dried
Two pinches of Salt
A couple grinds of Black Pepper
1 quart (4 Cups) Water

1. Saute the vegetables to soften
2. Add the shrimp shells and saute for a minute.

Cooking the aromatics and the shrimp shells... No need to brown.

3. Add the herbs and spice, plus the 1 quart of water.
4. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for an hour.

5. After an hour, filter out the stock through a colander. The recipe started with 4 cups of water, after the one hour simmer there was about 3 cups of stock remaining.

The Plated Challenge

Allioli dabbed on the side and sofregit on the side too.
As you eat the rice, you mix in or dab a little allioli on each bite.

The dish was good, but surprisingly mild. The sofregit on the side was a tasty addition. The allioli also added a nice flavor, but gave a surprising wallop! The allioli starts off with a nice garlicky flavor. As the allioli heads to the back of the mouth, it becomes spicy hot! Reminds me of a habanero pepper or a garlicky horseradish... the initial taste is sweet and fruity (for a fraction of a second) and then the heat blows you away.

Another surprise, the rice did cook up nicely using the 3:1 ratio. When I decided to substitute the cuttlefish with shrimp. I wanted to stay as close to the original recipe as possible without pushing the recipe towards a seafood paella. However, for the future, the addition of more seafood (crab and squid) and sausage (like chorizo) would add a little pop to the dish.

Overall, the mushrooms and artichokes formed a delicious combination!


Audax said...

One of the nicest post so far!!! You are the master of educating the Daring Kitchen so many great pictures and so much information (as always)!!! Wonderful results and the final dish looks perfect. Yes you are right about the allioli it is very strong but o o o so good with this seafood rice. Thanks for your kind comments you left on my blog. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

Lisa said...

I would have used shrimp myself has I made this dish! As usual, your photos are stunning and making me drool! Perfect knife skills, perfect step by step photos and a beautiful final outcome! I wish you would bring it all over!!

Finally, LOL@ your comment on my blog. If there was a photo god, and he left another camera, I'd be SO grateful!!! BUT, don't think one will 'magically' appear like the Maybe if I wish hard and send brain waves to Canon? :P

Lauren said...

Gorgeous!! Great info, I love the sound of adding the saffron tea =D. I didn't use saffron, but I'm sure it really added more dimension to the dish!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Wonderful explanations and photos! I like the tip about soaking the saffron in hot water. i was surprised mine did not produce a deep yellow or red color, and perhaps that is why?

I will amke this with shrimp also next time!

Anonymous said...

I am going to have to try the allioli one more time. Yours looks perfect.

Care said...

Gorgeous walk through of this recipe. Your photos are wonderful and I appreciate your tips for the saffron.

shawn said...

Great dish! Superb job John. As always. :)