Friday, August 14, 2009

The Daring Cooks Challenge travels to Spain: Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish & Artichokes

The August Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by Olga, from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes. Olga chose a recipe featured on José Andrés' Made in Spain, a 26-episode PBS television series focusing on Spain’s wine, food and travel.

José Andrés is an internationally recognized culinary innovator best known for bringing both traditional and avant-garde Spanish fare to America.

For the Challenge, Olga chose Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish & Artichokes. This dish is also in José Andrés' Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen cookbook, but is slightly different from the recipe Olga provided. I combined a little of both.

Despite their common name, cuttlefish are not fish but molluscs. Cephalopod molluscs, such as squid, cuttlefish and octopus, are among the most neurologically advanced of all invertebrates. Spanish cuisine, especially that of the coastal regions, uses cuttlefish and squid ink for the marine flavor and smoothness it provides; it is included in dishes such as rice, pasta and fish stews.

For my dish, I used 10 oz. of fresh squid. Like cuttlefish, squid have eight arms and two tentacles arranged in pairs.

Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish & Artichokes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves 4

  • 4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or frozen if fresh are not available)

  • 12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)

  • 1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)

  • 1 glass of white wine

  • 2 Cuttlefish (you can use frozen cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh);

  • Sofregit” (see recipe below)

  • 2 cups short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain)

  • Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)

  • 1/2 teaspoon Saffron threads (you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)

  • Allioli (optional)

*The cookbook recipe adds a few cloves of minced garlic and is slightly different in the preparation method.


  • Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan

  • Cut the cuttlefish in little strips

  • If you use fresh artichokes, clean them as shown in the video in tip #7. Cut artichokes in eights

  • Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths

  • Add a bay leaf , artichokes, and the mushrooms

  • Sauté until the artichokes are golden in color

  • Add a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan for a more flavorful dish

  • Add two to three tablespoons of sofregit and mix well

  • Add all the liquid and bring it to boil

  • Add all the rice. and let boil for about 5 minutes over high heat

  • Add some saffron threads to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients absorb the flavor. If you are using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon

  • Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than al dente)

  • Take the pan off the heat and let the rice rest for a couple of minutes.

Olga’s Tips: (1) In Spain, rice is not stirred as often as it is when cooking Italian risotto. You must stir it once or twice maximum. This tip is valid for all Spanish rice dishes like paella, arròs negre, arròs a banda… (2) When cooking the alternative style you can change the cuttlefish or squid for diced potato. (3) If you can’t find cuttlefish or squid, or you’re not able to eat them because of allergies, you can try to substitute them for chicken or vegetables at your choice. (4) Sofregit can be done in advance. You can keep it in the fridge or even freeze it. (5) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video (6) To watch how Jose Andres cooks this dish click here. (7) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video (8) To tone down the taste when you do it by hand in a mortar, then add an egg yolk. If you want to tone it down in the alternative way use milk or soy milk. Anyway, the best alternative way is the original oil and garlic alone. (9) Allioli must be consumed during the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it. (10) For help on conversion on metric to imperial, visit this page.

I was able to find a nice bag of paella rice and used 4 oz. of fresh, wild mushrooms. I also used frozen artichoke hearts.


Sofregit is a well-cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions. It may also contain different vegetables, such as peppers or mushrooms.

Cooking time: Approximately 1 hour

2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 large, red ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 Bay leaf
Touch of ground cumin
Touch of dried oregano

Heat olive oil in frying pan, add the remaining ingredients, and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft. Add salt to taste.

*The recipe in the cookbook calls for 10 ripe plum tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups Spanish, extra-virgin olive oil, 4 small Spanish onions, chopped (4 cups), 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon Sweet Pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika) and 3 bay leaves. The oil, onions, sugar and salt are cooked over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes. The tomato puree, paprika and bay leaves are then added and the sauce is cooked for another 20 minutes.

I didn't understand the vast discrepancy in the amount of olive oil between the two recipes. I followed the cookbook and I did end up spooning off a bit of the oil at the end. However, I did like the idea of caramelizing the onions first before adding the tomato puree. Here are my 10, beautiful Romas

Using a grater, as suggested in the cookbook, was a nice and easy method for separating the tomato pulp from the skin

Ending up with a nice bowl full of tomato puree

I used two medium onions to yield about 4 cups chopped onions

Olive oil, onions, sugar and salt slowly saute for about 45 minutes

The tomato puree, paprika and bay leaves are then added and the sauce is cooked for another 20 minutes. The final result is a lovely and flavorful Sofregit. I think this sauce was my absolute favorite part of the recipe. This sauce is used in many Spanish recipes and can be stored, in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 5 days. I think it would be incredible over fish, such as halibut or grilled swordfish.

Allioli is the optional part of the recipe. We had the option of choosing between the traditional recipe or the modern recipe.


(Traditional recipe)
Preparation time: Approximately 20 minutes

4 garlic cloves, peeled
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and salt together until you have a smooth paste (the salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar;. Add the lemon juice, and then add the olive oil, drop by drop, as you continue to crush the paste with the pestle. Keep turning the pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion around the mortar as you drip the oil in slowly and steadily, making sure the paste soaks up the olive oil. Continue, adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add 1/2 teaspoon of water to thin it out. This takes time, about 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar, to create a dense, rich sauce.

José's tips for traditional recipe: It's hard to imagine that when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. Don't give up. It's worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you're adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

Allioli a la moderna
(Modern recipe)
Preparation time: 3-4 minutes

1 small egg
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
Salt to taste

Break the egg into a mixing bowl; Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice; Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste; Little by little, add what's left of the olive oil as you continue blending; If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce; Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
The sauce will be a lovely yellow color. Add salt to taste.

José's tips for modern recipe:
(1) If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.
(2) What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don't throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for fish or vegetables. However, if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another beaker and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted.

I mastered the traditional, after a few tries, and one very sore right wrist and arm. Don't try to rush the process!

It is truly amazing how this comes together into a rich, very garlicky mayonnaise.

Here's another plating of the final dish, with dollops of Sofregit and Allioli, and parsley, on top

Thank you, Olga, for an interesting, fun and tasty challenge. And thank you to the Daring Kitchen founders, Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. I'm truly enjoying being a part of the Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers.

Be sure to visit the other Daring Cooks to see what they have created!


Anna said...

Love how your fish tourned out! I like to photos a lot too :) Cheers!

Lisa said...

I love the perfect step by step photos, eespecially since every facet of this dish worked for you! The final result is gorgeous! Kudos!

Jenn said...

Gorgeous photos! I love how vibrant & red your sofregit came out!

Anonymous said...

I have to second the comment, great color on the sofregit. I also liked the box grater for pulping the tomatoes. Plum tomatoes should always be skinned. Great photos.

Denise said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. That is what is so wonderful about being a part of this group. I hope to make some rounds this weekend and visit some of the fabulous blogs and posts. Foodgawker doesn't seem to care for my photos of this Challenge, as they've rejected by two plating ones ;-(

Lauren said...

Wow!! Your dish looks amazing, and the sofregit looks especially delicious. I love the warmth of your photos. Gorgeous.

Audax said...

That allioli looks so perfect and your plating is superb. Wonderful series of pixs. Cheers from Audax in australia

dandelion said...

Hey I learned something new! Love the grated tomatoes. I blanched and shocked mine to get the skin off. Your dish looks wonderful. See you next month. :)

isa said...

Wow! Your dish looks gorgeous - love the plating!

Rose said...

Beautifully done! WOW!! Looks great :D

seafood supplier said...

Combination Rice with Mushrooms, cuttlefish & artichokes
is delicious. You should also try sea cucumber.
Sea Cucumber is a tasty meal and usually served on special occasions and the Lunar New Year. Also efficacious for the treatment.