If you subscribe to Mama Ía blog, or if you’ve been following it, by now you’re probably familiar with Spain’s dry rice dishes, like paella in all it’s varieties, or arroz al horno (click here and here and here). But there’s a different category of rice dish in Spain, which is not as familiar outside of the country as paella is. In Spanish we call it arroz caldoso, and to tell you the truth, I don’t have a good translation for it. Maybe brothy rice, maybe soupy rice, your pick. As its name implies, it is a rice dish that incorporates a broth, which makes it almost a soup, but thicker (and yet, more soupy than a risotto). The recipe I’m sharing today is for arroz caldoso de marisco, soupy seafood rice, and as important as the kind of rice you use is (preferably a medium grain Spanish rice like Bomba or Calasparra), the key ingredient here is the seafood stock.
There are different kinds of arroz caldoso, soupy rice, just like there are different kinds of paellas: they can incorporate different meats, or chicken, or different kinds of seafood, or a variety of vegetables, or legumes, or a combination of some of the above. I have a number of favorites, but two of them in particular. One is a vegetable soupy rice, with chickpeas and Swiss chard, that my mom used to make quite often when I was growing up. The second one is my sister Susana and her husband Jaime’s soupy lobster rice, arroz con bogavante. It is a team effort, with my sister making the rich, flavorful stock and Jaime finishing the rice. The lobster is cut in large portions, and “working” each of its parts is half the fun. I hope I can post the recipe here soon, but I know for a fact mine will not be as good as theirs. They live on the beach in Valencia, and get the catch of the day, fresh out of the sea, when they make the dish.
For my soupy seafood rice I would have loved to use monkfish, my favorite fish to use in fish stews, but unfortunately they do not bring it often to my fishmonger in Fort Wayne, and even though I can order it, I failed to do so ahead of time. No worries, cod works really well too. A bit “softer” than monkfish, be sure to fold it gently into the soup, so the pieces won’t break. I also used mussels and shrimp in my dish, which I also used to make the stock. Make sure to refer to the recipe for seafood stock (click here), and don’t be intimidated to make your seafood stock from scratch, I promise you it’s easier than you think.
As we speak, Valencia’s Las Fallas festival just wrapped up. I talked about it this time last year, with a post that included the recipe for thick hot chocolate, the beverage of choice during the festival (accompanied by buñuelos, fritters). Check the post (click here), or the page titled Las Fallas, Valencia’s Spring Festival, under IDIOSYNCRASIES in the FUNDAMENTALS tab on the top menu (or click here) if you’re curious about Las Fallas. But I wanted to celebrate today that the festival, which has been celebrated in Valencia since the 15th century, has recently been declared Patrimonio Inmaterial de la Humanidad, a World Cultural Heritage, by UNESCO. If you have never experienced it, I encourage you to do it. I promise it’s an experience you won’t forget.
SOUPY SEAFOOD RICE
Arroz Caldoso de Marisco
For 6 servings
1.5 cups Bomba or Calasparra rice (or another medium rice)
10 cups seafood stock (click here for recipe)
2 medium tomatoes
1 medium onion
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup water
12 large shrimp, shells on
2 lbs monkfish or cod (thick part preferably)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp pimentón de la Vera
Pinch of saffron
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbs flat leaf parsley
Sea salt to taste
Dice the onion finely. Mince the garlic. Half the tomatoes and grate them over a small bowl. Discard the peels.
Peel the shrimp and reserve the peels for the seafood stock (click here for the recipe)
Wash and debeard the mussels. Place them in a stockpot or cast iron casserole and add the sherry and water. Cover and cook over medium heat, 5-6 minutes. Remove the mussels from the stockpot and set aside, discarding the ones that failed to open. Reserve the juices.
Using the same stockpot or casserole, heat 2 Tbs olive oil and sauté the shrimp, 1 minute per side. Remove from the casserole and set aside. Add 3 Tbs olive oil and cook the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until soft, about another minute (make sure it doesn’t brown or burn). Add 2 Tbs olive oil and incorporate the tomato, saffron and pimentón de la Vera. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the seafood stock to a boil, then decrease the heat to low, to keep the stock warm. Add the juices reserved from cooking the mussels.
Add the rice to the stockpot with the tomato and onion mixture and stir to blend all the ingredients, 2-3 minutes. Add 4 cups of seafood stock and raise the heat to high. Stir to mix all the ingredients and, when the stock comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low. As the rice absorbs the stock, add 1 more cup. Continue adding stock, one cup at a time, as the rice absorbs it. Adjust for salt.
At the 16 minute mark since adding the rice, incorporate the fish, pushing the pieces into the soupy rice (cod is more delicate than monkfish, so push the pieces gently). The rice should be tender and almost ready. Cook for 2 more minutes and add one or two more cups of stock, so the dish is soupy. Gently incorporate the shrimp and the mussels and remove the casserole from the heat source.
Serve the soupy rice in shallow pasta bowls (we call them “plato hondo” in Spanish), adding 1/2 cup seafood stock to each bowl. Sprinkle with minced parsley.