Saturday, January 28, 2006

Arroz Negro

I had bought some very fresh squid from the wet market. As luck would have it, these beautiful specimens, save one or two, pretty much had their ink sacs intact. At any rate, there was more than enough to deeply stain and richly flavour plenty of rice pitch black for two. While those little plastic sachets labelled nero di seppia do an admirable job in a pinch, there's nothing like the natural ink to infuse a dish with the taste of the sea. So black rice it would be for dinner.

Why a Valencian arroz negro and not a Venetian risotto nero, equally handsome a dark horse?

I was down to the last cupful of arroz bomba from Calasparra - remains of the thoughtful gift from a friend recently returned from Spain - the low-yielding short grain rice variety that's notoriously challenging to grow but makes up for its trouble by being remarkably good eating; bomba grains are thirsty things, majestically swelling up to about four times their original volume when cooked (as compared to the two to three times of more mortal rices) yet retaining firmness when fully done, equally celebrated for their flavour absorbtion capacity and superb texture. Last cupfuls of hard-to-come-by commodities, in my books, deserve extra TLC in the form of a special recipe, a befitting farewell, a last supper of sorts until the next gift of rare rice comes to pass.

(Digressing, Vialone Nano, rich as it is in amylose - the firm inner starch - is terrific for creating a risotto nero with the elusive combination so prized in Venetian-style risotti, that of all'onda, or loose rippling consistency, yet with kernels that offer a satisfying resistance to the bite.)

I am also completely besotted with José Andrés' Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America. To be precise, his recipe for arroz negro con calamares has been haunting my waking hours as soon as I set eyes on it. Now so it seems, it was destined to be the first dish I try from the book. Deliberating what first to make from a volume brimming with so many fabulous dishes is no walk in the park - for a dawdler like me, nothing beats having your choice cut out for you. You may expect a book by a protégé of Ferran Adrià's to be full of the technical wizardry and culinary pyrotechnics that have put El Bulli on the map. Instead, the book is surprisingly accessible - not a liquid foam or siphon in sight - a standout collection of recipes that manages to strike the perfect note between traditional and avant-garde.

The true star here, as with all Spanish arroces from caldero to paella, is indubitably the rice, each grain impregnated with the lush depth of flavour and heady complexity that's mounted by layering a fragrant stock (in this case, fish stock) over a thick tomato and onion sofrito, the whole permeated by and therefore showcasing just one or two main ingredients (here, squid and its ink). Garlic, parsley and olive oil pounded to a fragrant paste and stirred in halfway through the process, add nuance and roundedness to the arroz negro.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Joycelyn, I'm a sucker for squid ink (and rice, as you know) and this looks so scrumptious - absolute beauty!

4:29 am, January 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second Keiko.. squid ink and rice.. but the Swiss man here do not like ink grr...
seems you love squids ink you made a pasta before... with ink too.

think next time I get squid or cuttle fish I wont compromise am serving risotto nero!

7:16 am, January 28, 2006  
Blogger Flambo said...

I'm new to your blog, and I'm not even a food blogger, a chef, or a food writer...just happened upon it because it was listed in one of my best friend's blogs. I am, however, a real lover of food! Anyway, the last couple days I have been surveying your archives and my mouth has dropped in utter amazement several times at some of your posts. I am simply in awe of your blog. You have made a fan out of a simple passerby. Astounding!

8:35 am, January 28, 2006  
Blogger Cathy said...

Jocelyn - I've never had anything flavored with squid ink, but I just love the idea (and your description) of "a befitting farewell" for the last of a treasured ingredient.

10:45 am, January 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never had anything flavored with squid ink before, as well. I'd certainly love a taste.

Andres' book sounds very interesting.

Thanks for sharing this receipe with us.


3:17 pm, January 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What an incredible picture! And what an incredible dish! While I have never tried foods with squid ink, my mother raves about a squid ink pasta she had. I will have to share this with her and hopefully I can take my first trip down the road of tasting squid ink.

Wonderful post!

3:07 am, January 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful. I have always wanted to cook squids with the ink to make arroz negro, but never did so far. How did you "get" the ink out? I am really interested in this recipe!;-) Lovely photo!

10:53 pm, January 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am soooooo going to have to try this!!!
but notwioth your beautiful rice though :)

6:51 am, January 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are now my new culinary heroine! Cooking with squid let alone ink. Remarkable.

11:34 am, January 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

woww this sounds amazing. oh and happy cny!

11:32 pm, January 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi J, that is gorgeous! I had arroz negro for the first time last January in Barcelona. Although I had seen it on the menu many places made with various types of seafood, the place where I tasted it served it with only tender strips of squid and a dish of pungent alioli. Wow! I've been meaning to make it myself for months. Thanks for the inspiration!

8:43 pm, January 31, 2006  
Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

Beautiful as usual and I love the way you write down your thought processes.

Thanks for sharing.

10:56 pm, January 31, 2006  
Blogger Michelle said...

Oh I love Jose Andres! We ate at his restaurant in Washington DC twice in the short 4 days we were there, and I would love to get my hands on his book. This is a beautiful dish (do you ever make anything not beautiful, dear culinary goddess?). I love squid ink pasta, but I've never tried it with rice, and I had no idea that you could buy something similar in a package! Thanks for the information!

5:04 am, February 01, 2006  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I love squid ink risotto but noticed that the few I tried in the Italian restaurants in Singapore leave much to be desired. Never tried to make my own as it seems intimidatingly complex but now you have inspired me. Yet again. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

8:25 am, February 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have learned to separate the ink sac and use the ink when I was barely 12y.o. I think...

7:59 am, February 03, 2006  
Blogger Vivilicious said...

Hey J., gorgeous photo as usual. I love black rice as it were, especially the fantastically beautiful smile it gives the eater ;-) I love cooking with squid though have not braved the ink sacs yet (the bought ink yes). I'm moving there in a month's time so hopefully we can compare notes. Maybe I can bring you some goodies from this side of the world...

3:14 am, February 04, 2006  
Blogger shaz said...

looks fantastic! keep it up gal!

6:52 pm, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Joycelyn said...

hi keiko, thanks! part of the fun, i must admit, is the gorgeous inky hue of the rice!

hi sha, squid ink is your birthright ;) luckily for me, w loves anything cooked with/in squid ink too

hi flambo, thanks for visiting and leaving such a kind note - glad you like what you see

hi cathy, think of me as a sentimental fool (or just plain greedy!);)

hi paz, thanks - some people say its an acquired taste, but i must say i love it

hi ivonne, as they say, once you go black, you never look back ;)

hi bea, thanks! the ink is located in a tiny black sac found within the squid tube/body - simply smash/squeeze the ink out and dilute it with a little stock, water or wine before using.

hi clare, thanks!try it you must!

hi jeanne, thanks! although i must admit that being asian, i had the benefit of never having to conquer any phobias of cephalopods!

hi gwenda, thanks! happy cny to you too!

hi melissa, thanks! i did make some super galicky alioli on the side but the stuff is so powerful all i used was the tiniest of dabs and that sufficed to permeate the entire dish of rice!

hi ruth, thanks! as you can see, i am quite the rambler ;)

hi michelle, you lucky thing! i've heard so much about jaleo - it's definitely on my hit list of restaurants to try...the book is fantastic, full of wonderful techniques and interesting (and delicious) tapas

hi mm, happy belated lunar new year to you too!

hi viv, thanks! i think you'll love singapore, if for nothing else but the food and endless sunshine ;)

hi shaz, thanks!

hi mae, thanks; glad to see you're a fan of the dark side ;)

hi melissa, thanks! it is indeed a wonderful book

hi daffy, thanks for thinking of me; i've emailed you

12:25 pm, February 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! My fiance LOVES this dish...perhaps I should really try to learn to make it...your's looks and sounds lovely as inspiration! :)

1:10 am, February 14, 2006  

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