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dry rice (paella) with octopus, lactarius mushrooms and cherry tomatoes

Seafood and wild mushrooms are a better combination even than Simon and Garfunkel

ingredients for 4 servings (cost about 8€ pp)
  • 2 large octopus tentacles
  • 6 lactarius mushrooms
  • 5 cherry tomatoes
  • 200 g bomba or redondo rice
  • A small glass white wine
  • 600 ml fish stock
  • Already made sofregit, otherwise: a) 1 large or 2 medium onions, b) EV olive oil c) 1 tomato
  • Salt
  • EV olive oil
  • Parsley

Rice in Spain occupies a very large part of the weekly diet. At least 2-3 meals every week contain rice. Εspecially on Thursdays, the daily menu offered by the local restaurants, almost necessarily contains a paella dish. Thursday rice is an institution in Spain.

Spanish rice dishes have a completely different philosophy from Italian risotto and are divided into two broad categories:

a) The “dry rice” or paella, where the rice is cooked in wide and shallow – so as to facilitate evaporation- pans (PAELLA means PAN in Spanish) and is not stirred at all, unlike risotto, which needs intense and frequent stirring. So you realize that these rice dishes should not be creamy, quite the opposite. The bomba or arroz redondo varieties are mainly used for these preparations.

These wide, shallow utensils are made for these preparations, as they are also used for serving, so as the rice cools and dries, the “socarrat” is formed. What is the socarrat? The concentrated and caramelized membrane produced by the boiling stock, the rice starches and the sugars of the tomato which is also contains crispy rice grains (those who are found at the bottom pan).

But don’t worry, if you don’t have the special utensils, you can achieve an excellent result with a good large pan.

b) The “hot rice” where the rice is prepared in a larger pot together with the rest of the ingredients and it is served much wetter than the risotto, almost like soup. Spanish rice (both dry and wet) is granular, not creamy as the risotto. For these rice dishes is used either carnaroli or local varieties that only exist in Spain.

c) In both cases, however, the rice grains must be thoroughly washed under running water to eliminate as much starch as possible and after cooking must remain al dente.

The amount of rice in Spanish dishes is usually smaller compared to the other ingredients of the dish, if we compare them with the corresponding risottos. To make it clearer the risotto is rice with something while the Spanish rice dishes are something with rice.

Let’s see the procedure of making a perfect paella:

After washing the rice thoroughly under running water, we start preparing and cooking the peripheral ingredients with which we will combine the rice. The most common garnishes are shrimp, chicken wings, grilled vegetables, pork and lamb chops, sausages, squid and cuttlefish, cod, mussels etc. WE KEEP THEM WARM.

If we have ready made “sofregit” in our freezer, we can proceed quickly to the next step. Otherwise we heat chopped onion and one very well grated bay leaf in the paella utensil and when it turns golden, we add white wine and wait for it to evaporate. We add tomato paste and we cook in very low temperature until it slightly darkens, stirring constantly and correcting if necessary its composition with a little bit of water. CAUTION, the mixture should not be dark browned because it will turns bitter and will destroy the whole preparation.

When the mixture reaches the desired colour we add hot stock (about X 2,4 the quantity of the rice, we don´t forget we want a very dry result) and salt.

Attention: We pour all the stock at the same time, not in ladles like in the risotto. I remind you that in all rice preparations the stock must be always lightly salted and very hot. It should also be noted that the amount of rice should be relatively little in order to create a good, crunchy result. For example, for a utensil with a diameter of 28 or 30 cm, the maximum is 200 grams of rice.

Using high heat we add the rice into the pan and we distribute it evenly with the ladle. We do not stir the rice further because we do not want its starches to end up in the pan. We boil on relatively high heat for about 5 minutes.

We lower the heat to medium-low and we let the rice simmer until it absorbs 80% of the broth. Calculate about 10 minutes. We check the saltiness, adding soma more if necessary..

We then put the utensil in a preheated oven at 180 degrees. We leave it for about 5-8 minutes, waiting for the liquids to bind and the rice to get crunchy. WE DO NOT MIX AT ALL. If we do not have an oven, we raise the temperature to maximum and we cook for about 3 more minutes. Our aim is, I repeat, to form the “socarrat” at the bottom of the pan, which should create a crockery effect like that of the Persian rice.

We remove the pan from the oven or the heat, we add the solid parts we have prepared and we put it back in the oven for 1-2 minutes until our peripheral ingredients are well reheated.

Having well learned the procedure for every paella we start preparing today´s dish.

In a large pot we add plenty of cold salted water. We add the octopus tentacles and we bring to boil and we cook them for at least 55 minutes, till very tender.

Meanwhile we clean well the mushrooms, we grease them with some oil and we roast them in a 170 preheated oven for about half an hour. We take out of the oven the smaller mushrooms which they need less time. Caution, we don´t want the mushrooms to get dry. In another pan we roast the cherry tomatoes in halves for a little bit less time. We salt them and we keep warm

We proceed as shown before and when the 80% of the stock will have been absorbed we add the octopus, the mushrooms and the cherry tomatoes and we put in the oven for 5 minutes.

We sprinkle with chopped parsley and we serve.

Allioli is forbidden at this dish as it will totally cover mushrooms´ gentle aromas.


Published in RICE