The August 2009 Daring Cooks challenge is hosted by Olga of from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes. 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."
For the recipe on the Daring Kitchen site, click here.
Making the Spanish rice dish was a lot of fun, and my family thoroughly enjoyed it.
This dish had four different steps if you wanted to take the challenge all the way: 1) making a sofregit (sofrito) of tomatoes, onions, and peppers; 2) making a garlic allioli, either the traditional way with just garlic, oil, salt, and a mortar and pestle or the modern way with a food processor and the addition of an egg; 3) preparing artichoke hearts from fresh artichokes; and 4) the actual making of the dish.
If you're in a time crunch, I would recommend making the sofregit and allioli one day and the paella the next. To make it the same day, you'll want to give yourself 3-4 hours.
Making the Sofregit
The sofregit is fabulous! My recommendation is to cook it until the liquid from the tomatoes and vegetables is mostly evaporated, in order to concentrate the flavor. I think this took between 30 and 40 minutes. I considered the sofregit done when I could run a spoon against the bottom of the skillet and I could see the bottom, as you can see in the picture below.
Following is a picture of the completed sofregit:
Making the Garlic Allioli
Second was the allioli. I did try the traditional way, mashing the garlic to a paste with a little salt and adding olive oil drip by drip until it started forming an emulsion. I was going gangbusters until the cat jumped on my leg, claws extended to climb up to my lap. OUCH! I dropped a huge glug of oil into the mortar and pestle on top of what was turning out to be a great thing. Bummer. I couldn't get the allioli to go back together again, so I took the mixture, transferred it to a food processor, added an egg, and whirred away.
The texture was not as thick as the traditional allioli, but it was intensely flavorful. Like the sofregit, this allioli can be used for any number of dishes. After I made the paella, I used some of the remaining allioli in a tzatziki sauce that I served with grilled vegetables.
Preparing the Artichoke Hearts
Since I had never prepared fresh artichokes, I went ahead and did that for the paella. I watched this helpful video and went on my merry way. To my surprise, preparing artichokes is not hard at all. That said, I think I would definitely use jarred artichokes the next time around.
Making the Rice Dish
Since one of my kids doesn't like seafood, I didn't make the cuttlefish version but opted to use chicken thighs and chorizo sausage instead. I browned both the chicken thighs and the chorizo in the same pan that I cooked the paella in.
I think the trickiest thing about this dish is the rice. The last time I had made paella, my rice was mushy, so I definitely wanted to avoid that.
I used Goya medium-grain rice, but apparently the Spanish bomba rice, if you can find it, is more forgiving (click here for a great description). Click here for another link, which describes the process for an authentic paella.
Instead of following the recipe instructions, I cooked the dish, uncovered, on the stove for 15 minutes and then stuck it, covered, in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes. Then I let the rice rest for 10 minutes off the heat, still covered. My rice was perfectly cooked.
I served the finished dish with the remaining sofregit and allioli, so people could customize the paella to their taste. It was a real crowd pleaser!Do you want to join this daring and fun group of people who love to cook and try new things? Go to Daring Cooks for more info.