RECIPE #136, DAY #157
ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Baked Spanish Rice,” from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison*
TIMING: 1 1/2 hours
DIFFICULTY: Not difficult. It’s one of those relaxed, aromatic foods you’d make on a day in
TOOLS: A few pots and pans, including something to bake the rice in
COOK TYPE: Stovetop and oven
HEALTH: I happen to believe in rice, even white rice. This is a great, healthful side dish for a Spanish- or even Mexican-inspired meat or bean entree.
EXPERIENCE: I am not a fan of Mexican rice. Rarely have I ever gotten that free side-portion of rice at a Mexican restaurant and been pleased. In fact, the only Mexican rice I ever loved can out of a box in my childhood: from Rice A Roni. I liked it for two reasons: the toasted vermicelli and the natural flavors (which were probably MSG). Well, that’s not exactly accurate. Rice A Roni is also very deeply flavored, whereas most menu Mexican rices are super boring.
I am determined to create a Mexican rice–some day–that we can exclaim about as much as my awesome refried beans or the tacos on the plate. This rice dish was just a step on my way to that end, although it would make an impressive side for any Spanish-inspired meal.
NOTES: You really need some strong flavors in here or the rice is just too bland. The sundried tomatoes do that, so don’t omit them, and you could also add some nice, briny, sliced olives and top everything off with a sprinkling of fresh herbs and pine nuts.
- In a medium to large sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion and saute until golden. Work in 2 tablespoons tomato paste.
- Stir in 1 cup water and scrape debris from the bottom of the pan. Increase heat and add 6 more cups water, 1 teaspoon fennel seed, 1 head of garlic with only the outer skin removed, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover partially, and cook 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add 1 diced onion and 10 sliced sundried tomatoes and saute until onions brown, about 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- To the onion, add 3 cloves chopped garlic, 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon turmeric, a hefty pinch of red pepper flake, salt and ground black pepper, and 1 1/2 cups Arborio or Valencia rice. Bloom 2 pinches of saffron in 2 tablespoons hot water and add that as well.
- Give it a good stir, then strain the stock into the rice (reserving the head of garlic). Over medium heat, cook the rice for 10 minutes.
- Transfer the rice to an oiled baking/casserole pan and nestle the garlic head in the middle. Bake for 25 minutes, until the rice is tender. Garnish with parsley, briny olives, and pine nuts, as well as the softened garlic cloves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Serve with Spanish chicken or pork and a veggie.
*Recipe changed from the original.