The TV weather persons are on a roll. Their shivers of excitement are palpable as they announce “historic snowfalls,” “minus-15ºC temperatures” (centigrade),” “gale-force winds” and, in the south where I live, “aviso naranja” (orange alert) for heavy rainfall. Considering that most of the year the weather in Spain is so benign—blue skies and warm temps, day after day--that the forecasters might play a tape and go home early, they might be forgiven for thrilling to the extremes.
I’m shivering, too, just viewing the meter-long icicles hanging from weathered roofs in northern Spain and heaps of snow blocking the Puerta del Sol in the center of Madrid. So I looked to the northern cuisines for what to cook to ward off the chill. Zamora, a province in northwestern Spain in the Castilla y León region, is known for a robust rice dish chock full of meat and sausage. A far cry from sunny paella, arroz zamorano contains sausages, pork, ham and not a bit of saffron.
|Zamora-style rice, with pork and sausages, bakes in a cazuela. Just the meal for wintery weather.|
When the rice is made for the annual matanza, or hog slaughtering, when hams are salted for curing, sausages hung to air-dry and fresh pork loin conserved in confit of lard, it might contain various pig parts—belly, feet, ears, snout—boiled to make a flavorful broth in which to cook the rice. An everyday version, without the feet and ears, can be made with pork loin, ham and sausages
Pork belly (panceta) is fresh, unsalted, unsmoked bacon. It adds unctuousness to the rice. Chorizo adds more fat as well as color—ruddy pimentón with which the chorizo is seasoned.
I started with a thick shoulder pork chop (chuleta de aguja). I cut out the bone and used it to make pork broth for cooking the rice. The meat I cut in bite-sized pieces and cooked with the rice instead of loin. The shoulder stays juicier than loin, in my opinion.
A cazuela—earthenware cooking vessel—can be used, with great care, on a gas flame or, rustic style, in the hearth on a wood fire. Since I switched to an induction cooktop, I can no longer use my clay cazuelas on the stove. Two alternatives—cook the rice in a metal pan (such as a paella pan) on top of the stove or fry the meat and make the sofrito in a skillet and transfer them to a cazuela to bake in the oven. On this cold and rainy day, I’m opting for turning on the oven.
|Calories to keep you warm! Pork belly and shoulder meat, link sausages and chorizo cook with the rice. A simple sofrito is the starting point.|
|A Tempranillo wine from D.O. Toro, Arribes or Tierra del Vino (wine regions of Zamora) would be perfect with the heart-warming rice dish.|
Rice in Cazuela, Zamora Style
Cazuela de Arroz a la Zamorana
Use Spanish medium-grain, round rice, the same type as for paella, preferably the Bomba variety. Bomba rice is forgiving, cooking “al dente” without becoming mushy as other varieties can do if not carefully timed. Use double the quantity of liquid to the volume of rice, e.g., 3 cups broth to 1 ½ cups rice to produce a “dry” rice. If you prefer the rice a little juicier, meloso, add another ½ cup of broth during the last 5 minutes of baking. Don't stir the rice once it is distributed in the cazuela.
Vary the quantities of meat and sausage to suit yourself. Use loin instead of shoulder, if preferred. Include ham, if you like. Pieces of cooked and deboned pigs’ feet are authentic.
Use either regular pimentón (paprika) or smoked pimentón. (I used ½ teaspoon sweet (dulce) smoked pimentón and ½ teaspoon hot (picante) smoked pimentón.)
If fresh tomatoes aren’t available, use 2 tablespoons of canned tomato sauce (tomate frito) or 2 teaspoons of concentrate stirred into ¼ cup of water. Canned pimiento can be substituted for the red bell pepper.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 links fresh pork sausage (6 ounces)
2 semi-cured chorizos (5-6 ounces), sliced
1 ½-inch slab of fresh or unsmoked bacon (panceta)
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
8 ounces boneless pork shoulder
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon pimentón (paprika)
¼ cup white wine
½ cup grated tomato pulp
1 ½ cups rice
3 cups pork bone broth or chicken stock (+ additional if needed)
Spigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
|Brown sausages and panceta.|
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Fry the pork link sausages and sliced chorizo until they are browned. Remove them and reserve.
Slice the panceta crosswise into ½-inch strips. Fry them in the fat remaining in the skillet. Skim out when they are browned.
Add the onion, garlic and red pepper to the skillet and sauté on medium heat 2 minutes. Cut the pork shoulder into 1-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper. Add the pork to the skillet. When the pork is browned, stir in the pimentón. Immediately add the wine. Let the alcohol cook off. Add the tomato pulp. Cook the mixture 5 minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked away.
|Sofrito of onions, garlic and red pepper.|
Preheat oven to 450ºF. Bring the pork broth to a boil.
Stir the rice into the sofrito and pork in the skillet and cook 1 minute. Scrape the rice, pork and sofrito into an oven-safe cazuela. Spread it out. Tuck the link sausages, sliced chorizo and strips of panceta into the rice. Pour in 3 cups of the hot broth. Taste the liquid and add salt if necessary. Add sprigs of thyme and bay leaf to the cazuela. Very carefully transfer the cazuela to the oven.
Bake the rice, uncovered, 20 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed. If you taste the rice it should be tender, but al dente. Remove the cazuela from the oven. Cover it with foil and allow it to set 5 minutes before serving.
More recipes for rice in cazuela:
Everything you need to know about chorizo here.
More about cazuelas and clay pot cooking here.