Murcian Cauldron - Arroz en Caldero Murciano
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The inland sea of the Mar Menor has been fished since Roman times and this is its fishermen's dish--first cousin to arroz a banda--made with the inshore grey mullet, gilthead bream and the Mediterranean tuna, which go into this two-course dish. First comes the rice, given a meloso consistency by the oils from the blue fish and brickish color by the pimentón; then come the fish slices cooked in the same stock. This recipe comes from ex-fisherman Inocencio Hernández Albadalejo, better known as El Rubio, who has run the Casa de lar Mar in Lo Pagán for fifteen years.
Makes 6 servings.
Prep Time: 30 min.
Cook Time: 1 hr.
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2 - 1/2 cups Calasparra rice
Separate the fish into the firm-fleshed and whole pieces to be served after the rice, and the heads, tails and other trimmings plus smaller rock fish for the stock.
Sauté the ñoras and garlic cloves, pound them in a mortar or food processor and put them into a pan large enough to take the water. Add the fish for the stock, chopped tomato and salt, bring gently to a boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes. This can be prepared ahead of time. Add the large fish for the final 5 minutes of simmering, reheating the stock first if you have prepared it beforehand. Remove just over 2 1/4 quart of the stock to cook the rice, and check for the salt. Leave the remaining stock, with the fish keeping warm in it, to one side.
In a large heavy-bottomed pan--a cast-iron caldero is used in Murcia--bring the stock to a boil and add the rice. It will need 15-18 minutes cooking to reach its final, slightly sticky consistency. Once it is ready, leave to rest for 3 minutes. The fish is served in thick slices on the bone, with a little of the stock as a sauce.
By Inocencio Hernández Albadalejo
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