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Rice a Banda - Arroz a Banda

Rice a Banda

A plain, smudgy yellow plateful of arroz a banda may not look very appealing next to flashier options, but one mouthful justifies its reputation. A fishermen's dish found all around the Mediterranean coast, it varies from one area to another in details of the fish and sofrito, but the basic idea remains the same: all the flavors are sucked into the rice.

Originally it was eaten as a first course, followed by the fish used to flavor the cooking stock--the name literally means "rice apart" - but it is now normally eaten alone, which allows the stock to be made with smaller and more economical rock fish. If you can, try to find one of the scorpion fish. This recipe, from Pepe Peiera of El Pegoli in Denia--the mecca of arroz a banda--is based on that assumption.

Makes 6 servings.

Prep Time: 30 min.

Cook Time: 2 hr.

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2 - 1/2 cups short-grained Spanish Rice, such as Bomba or Calasparra
For the stock:
5 - 1/2 lb fish, including small rock fish, mackerel and octopus, prawns, lobster shells, etc.
2 ñoras (dried sweet red peppers) or 5 tsp pimentón
1 head of garlic
3-4 tbsp olive oil
3 quarts water
For the sofrito:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 fresh squid or cuttlefish, very finely chopped
Little coarse pimentón

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The fish stock and the sofrito can be prepared ahead of time. For the stock, fry the ñoras (without their seeds) and garlic, pounding them together in a mortar. Put the fish in a large pan with plenty of cold water and simmer gently, adding the ñoras and garlic when it comes to a boil. Leave to simmer for 1 1/2 hours and when cool enough, pass through a sieve.

Make the sofrito in a paella pan, frying the squid in the oil and adding the pimentón right at the end.

To finish the dish, add the rice to the paella pan, and cover with a measured 2 1/2 quarts stock. Allow 15 minutes cooking time and another 5 minutes for the rice to rest. The final rice should be as dry as a paella.

Restaurants usually serve this with alioli, a garlic mayonnaise.

By Pepe Peiera
Recipe courtesy of Spain GourmeTour magazine.

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