If I had used more tomato, achiote and cilantro, this would have been arroz marinero. If I had used bacon or tasso instead of olive oil, it would have been Creole rice. If I had added saffron and chicken or sausage, the dish would have veered closer to paella. As it was, I had some very good lobster broth in the freezer, an array of small amounts of seafood and an urge for a simple, home-cooked rice dish of no particular origin. Thus, this recipe for seafood rice was born.
The technique for a flavorful rice dish is simple: Soften the aromatics, add the rice and liquid, and cook until softened. Leftover cooked fish or meat can be added, or fresh fish, shellfish or sausage can be lightly sautéed while the rice finishes and served on top. If you have clams or mussels available, they can easily cook in the steam of the rice for about five minutes before the rice has fully softened.
Of course, the more flavorful the broth you use, the better the dish will taste. If you use a boxed broth, consider adding a half cup of white wine or additional tomato sauce. Or begin with good bacon or ham to add deeper flavor. After cooking it crisp, remove it from the pan to drain, along with all but two tablespoons or so of the bacon fat. Then mix the bits into the rice before serving. Lastly, I sprinkled some parsley over the rice, but you can try Parmesan as well unless you object to mixing cheese and seafood.
I served the seafood rice with steamed green beans, doused with lemon, and might suggest also a refreshing salad of winter greens to balance the earthy flavors.
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 T. olive oil
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 to 3 hot peppers (to taste), chopped
- 1½ cups brown or white rice, preferably long-grained
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes or 3 fresh tomatoes, diced
- 2½ cup best quality fish or chicken stock
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. celery seed
- 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 T. butter
- about 12 large shrimp, cleaned
- about 1/2 pound striped bass filet or other firm white fish, cut in 1-inch cubes
- 2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
- freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
In large pan, sauté scallions, garlic and peppers in olive oil until soft. Add rice, stirring to coat. Add stock, tomatoes and all herbs. Cover, bring to boil, and then reduce to simmer, cooking until liquid is absorbed. This will take about 25 minutes for white rice and 40 minutes for brown rice. If the rice seems dry, add a 1/4 cup more stock, tomato or broth.
While rice cooks, melt butter in smaller sauté pan and cook shrimp and fish until cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Mix seafood into rice, and garnish with parsley. Grate some Parmesan on top before serving if desired.