from The New York Times.

It doesn’t often happen that I read one of Mark Bittman’s recipe in his weekly column and think, “I can add this and this and that.” This week, seafood and chorizo leapt so quickly to mind while reading the recipe that I fooled myself into thinking they had been there among the ingredients on the printed page. But even without the seafood and meat, the recipe looked pretty good. I made up my mind to give it a try — with lots of improvising.

Here’s what he proposed:

3 1/2 cups stock or water
1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 T tomato paste
Large pinch saffron threads (optional)
2 tsp Spanish pimenton (smoked paprika) or other paprika
2 cups Spanish or other short-grain rice
minced parsley for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Warm stock or water in a saucepan. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 T olive oil. Toss to coat.

2. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, saffron if you are using it, and paprika and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another minute or two. Add liquid and stir until just combined.

3. Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Put pan in oven and roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, return pan to oven for another 5 mins. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 mins.

4. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with parsley. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

4-6 servings.

Here’s what I did:

1/2 lb shrimp
1/2 lb mussels
1/2 cup white wine

I wish I hadn’t run out of my chicken stock. Water had to stand in. Following the above instructions, after sauteeing the onion and garlic, I skipped the tomato paste (useless for anything other than color, in my view) and dropped in the mussels, rinsed under water, the shrimp, poured in the half cup of wine, and covered it. I let a few minutes go by. When the mussels had opened, I poured in the rice and then the water. I mixed it well. I placed the tomatoes wedges on top and shifted them to cover the breadth of the pan. Then, I placed the skillet in the oven. After 15 mins, it looked as though there was too much liquid. 5 mins more. Then I turned off the oven and let it sit for 12 mins. Took it out of the oven and plated.

Last thoughts:

Tonight was decidedly a test-run. Next time, I’ll use stock. I’m glad I left out the tomato paste, but perhaps I won’t feel quite so complacent about that when good fresh tomatoes are out of season. I didn’t miss the tomato paste tonight. I would also consider making a broth out of shrimp shells and adding that to the cooking liquid. That would heighten the shrimp flavor. I’d also buy meatier mussels than the puny ones I had tonight.

When the onion and garlic had softened, I added 1/2 cup wine and the mussels, shrimp, and covered it for about 5 mins.

I took the bubbly liquid at the end of 15 mins baking to mean that there was too much liquid. Next time, I think I’ll turn it off at that point and let it sit for about 15 mins in the hot oven. What I ate tonight was delicious, but just a touch more liquid wouldn’t have hurt.

Finally, you could add salt at every stage and still feel it was under-seasoned.

I think this will be a dish that I’ll return to next summer. We have another few weeks of excellent tomatoes in the farmer’s market. I’m likely to do it again.

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