This month's challenge was picked by Olga of Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes . Olga is from Spain, and so she chose a delicious Spanish recipe, Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés, one of the most important Spanish Chefs at the moment. This recipe is from his US TV show Made in Spain.
Since I am not really a big seafood person, I decided to replace the cuttlefish with some chicken and chorizo. This dish was fabulous! It was fun, and pretty easy to make, and it made my house smell amazing! The most complicated part of this dish was the time factor, because it did take about 2.5 hours to make in total. So its definitely not a week-night meal. But it is worthy of a nice dinner, someday special.
There were three main parts to this challenge. The first part was making a sofregit, which is a very fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and often times mushrooms, onions, and peppers. While it was simmering away on my stovetop all afternoon long, it definitely reminded me of homemade spaghetti sauce (I think it would be good for that, too!)
The second part of the recipe was to make an allioli. When I first read this I thought it was an aoli. Then I thought that maybe allioli and aioli were different. But nope, they aren't, it just depends where you are from as to how you say it. Just like tomatoes and potatoes, I guess. :)
The third and final part is to make the finished product. It is supposed to be made in a paella pan, but I don't have one. I started with a nice sized large sautee pan, but then halfway through adding ingredients I realized I definitely needed more pot. So I had to switch to a large stock pot. And almost dropped the pan on the floor and lost it all. Luckily, though, my wrists did not give out, and I saved the day!
I really only had two problems with this recipe. The first problem came with finding saffron. Who would have thought finding saffron would be a problem? All the normal grocery stores in the area (Hy-Vee, Price Chopper, etc) didn't carry it. So I went to the city market, which houses a lot of ethnic merchants, and bags upon bags of spices. But, amazingly, wonder of wonders, they were OUT of saffron! They had like 10 pound bags of terragon and curry and things I couldn't even pronounce, but no saffron. Eventually I gave in and drove 30 minutes to the Whole Foods store, where I spend a whopping $10 on this tiny jar of saffron threads.
The second problem I had was with the allioli sauce. Well, I should clarify. I didn't have the problem with it. The problem came into play when my dear husband and the husband of my best friend decided to "help" me cook dinner, and I needed to give them a task to get them from breathing down my neck and asking me 20 questions while I cooked. So I gave them the job of making the allioli, and I think they got a little exuberant with the "slow, circular movements" that are spelled out in the direction. We didn't get the creamy sauce we were supposed to, and olive oil ended up all over my kitchen table. But it did taste yummy! Especially when slathered on some nice rustic bread.
Rice with Mushrooms, Chicken and Artichokes
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 Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped
- 1 Bay leaf
- Touch of ground cumin
- Touch of dried oregano
Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft. Salt if necessary. Easy !!!
Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes Cooking time: 45 minutes Equipment:
- 4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
- 12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
- 1 or 2 Bay leaves
- 125 ml of white wine
- 2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh)
- 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, Fish, or Chicken Stock, depending on the meat you are using (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)
- Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)
Cut the cuttlefish/chicken in little strips.
Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
If you use fresh artichokes, clean them and cut in eights.
Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish/chicken and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
Add a couple or three heaping serving spoonfulls of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit. (I used about a cup, and then everyone added more to their individual plates).
Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat. This is not like a risotto where you have to stir it constantly. Stir once or twice the whole rest of the time this cooks.
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.
Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.
Drizzle individual servings with a small amount of allioli.
Allioli (Traditional recipe) Cooking time: 20 min aprox. Ingredients:
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- Pinch of salt
- Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
- Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)
Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
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.)
Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
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.
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. It takes forever, but is totally worth it in the end!
Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe) Cooking time: 3-4 minutes Ingredients:
- 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
Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
Little by little, add what's left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
Add salt to taste.
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.
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.