10 Favorite Rice Dishes from Janet Mendel
Janet Mendel is an American who has been living in Andalusia for more than 30 years. She is a recognized expert on Spanish cuisine and has published a number of books, including her most recent My Kitchen in Spain (HarperCollins) and Cooking from the Heart of Spain: Food of La Mancha (Morrow). Curious about the inventive ways Spanish cooks deal with their staple rice, we asked Janet to come up with ten great rice dishes. She sent us nine great rice dishes and one great pasta dish—but pasta cooked in a way not dissimilar to that Spanish classic paella.
Paella, by the way, is named for the pan it’s cooked in—a wide, shallow, two-handled pan that allows the rice to cook in a single layer. Authentic paella in Valencia, paella’s original home, contains chicken, rabbit, snails and lima beans. No shrimp. No sausage. But in the tourist resorts on the Costa del Sol, paella has chicken, shrimp, squid, a scattering of peas and strips of bright red pimiento mixed with garishly yellow rice, colored with artificial saffron.
Beyond paella there are other great rice dishes, cooked in other types of vessels. All use Spanish medium-short-grain rice, such as arroz bomba or Calasparra. In a pinch, Italian arborio rice can be substituted.
1. Cazuela de arroz y pollo (rice and chicken casserole): Cooked in a cazuela, earthenware casserole, and colored with saffron, the rice finishes juicy, rather than dry like paella. Chicken, peas, fava beans and green beans add savor.
2. Arroz al cazador (hunter’s rice): Cooked over a campfire with the “catch of the day”—rabbit, hare, partridge—in a perol, a deep two-handled frying pan (much like a flat-bottomed wok), the rice comes out juicy. Hunters might add wild mushrooms, thistles, asparagus or herbs.
3. Arroz a la Quintería con bacalao (salt cod and rice casserole): Cooked in a cazuela or caldero, soup pot, the rice is a little soupy. Bomba, a variety of Spanish rice, is best because it doesn’t “flower,” or open up and become mushy. Wild spring greens and potatoes go into the casserole too, making it a one-pot meal.
4. Arroz abanda (fishermen’s rice): Arroz abanda means “rice on the side.” Boil some of the day’s catch in a pot, skim out the fish and cook the rice in the tasty broth. Serve the rice first, followed by the fish, accompanied by a pungent alioli, garlic mayonnaise. Rockfish give the broth depth of flavor. Shrimp and other shellfish turn a simple dish into a luxurious one.
5. Arros negre (black rice): Cuttlefish or squid ink blackens the rice and adds intense seafood flavor. Pass the alioli on the side.
6. Arroz con perdiz (rice with “partridge”): The “partridge” is a whole head of garlic in this vegetarian rice dish with chickpeas, potatoes, and other vegetables.
7. Arros rosetxat (Valencian rice-in-a-pot): With lamb, white and black sausages, chickpeas, vegetables, and a giant meatball, this rice dish finishes in the oven.
8. Arros amb fesols y naps (rice with beans and turnips): A caldoso, or soupy, rice dish, this one includes white beans like canellini, turnips, pork, beef, pig trotters (pig’s feet), and sausages.
9. Arroz verde con almejas (green rice with clams): A Basque dish of precooked rice, to which is added a sofrito of garlic, bits of chili, clams and their juices and handfuls of chopped parsley.
10. Cazuela de fideos or fideuá (pasta paella): Not rice, but skinny twists of pasta are cooked with fish and shellfish in a wide paella pan.