Saturday, September 27, 2014


Paella from the dark side, with squid ink.

I couldn’t leave the squid chronicles without making one of my favorite recipes—arroz negro—a sort of paella with squid and other shellfish in which the rice is tinted black with squid ink.

Sachets of cuttlefish ink.

Last week I was unhappy with my rendition of Squid in Its Own Ink—not black enough. So this time, I bought several packets of frozen cuttlefish ink to add to the ink from the squid. Each sachet contains 4 grams (0.14 ounce) of ink with a thickening agent, so it squeezes out like a ghastly black gel. It did the trick. This rice was black!

Apparently, black rice isn’t always colored with ink. Back in 1995, when I got my first computer modem, I soon logged on to CompuServe’s Spanish Forum, Food and Wine section, and met—on line—quite a few people who shared my interests in Spanish cooking. Jordi, a Catalan, was one. He was a great source of recipes.

Jordi wrote with passion about how Catalan black rice was not made with ink, but with great patience in making the sofrito, the slow, slow “frying” of onions, garlic and tomatoes--until the point “you’re scared they’re going to burn.” Then you add a little water and repeat the process, over and over, until the sofrito is nearly black. His version of black rice includes, besides squid (but no ink), chicken, pork ribs and jumbo shrimp.

Pour red or rosé wine with this rice and shellfish dish.

I like Jordi’s black rice, yet here I include a version typical of Valencia and Alicante--with the black ink to color the rice. In it’s original version, the rice is made with tiny cuttlefish, sautéed whole, which release their ink in cooking. However, the dish is much more likely to be made with squid because it’s so widely available.

This rice dish can be made in a paella pan or a cazuela. The procedure is similar to that for making paella. Use white paella rice, a round, medium-short grain, or substitute Italian arborio.

Arroz Negro con Calamares y Mariscos
Black Rice with Squid and Shellfish

Serves 6-8 as a starter or 4 as a main dish.

Ingredients for black rice.
12 mussels, scrubbed and steamed open, liquid reserved
5 cups fish or shellfish stock
1 large squid (3/4 pound) or 6-8 small ones
3-4 sachets of cuttlefish ink
½ pound monkfish fillets
¼  cup olive oil
6 whole jumbo shrimp
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons pimentón
2 cups Spanish medium-short grain rice
Salt and pepper
Alioli (garlic sauce), to serve

Discard empty mussel shells. Reserve mussels. Strain the liquid and add it to the fish stock. Place the fish stock in a pan ready to be heated.

Clean the squid, reserving the ink sacs, tentacles and wing flaps. If using large squid, cut the body pouch into rings. Leave small ones whole. Pat the squid dry on paper towels.

Put the ink sacs from the squid in a small bowl and add ¼ cup of water to it. Mash the ink sac to release the ink. Squeeze in the contents of ink sachets, if using. Set aside.

Cut the monkfish into 1 ½ -inch chunks.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch cazuela or paella pan until quite hot. Sauté the shrimp, about 2 minutes per side, until they are pink and slightly curled. Remove the shrimp and reserve them.

Add the squid and their tentacles and wings to the oil and sauté for 2 minutes. (Take care, as the squid is likely to spatter in the oil.) Then add the onion and garlic. Continue cooking on a high heat.

Add the pieces of monkfish and cook another minute on a high heat. Then stir in the tomatoes and pimentón. Continue cooking 5 minutes more.

Bring the reserved stock to a boil.

Stir the rice into the cazuela and cook 1 minute. Then stir in 4 cups of boiling fish broth. Cook 5 minutes on a high heat.

Use a small sieve to strain the ink mixture into the rice. Stir to mix it well. Lower the heat and cook the rice 10 minutes more. Add the remaining cup of stock. Arrange the cooked mussels and shrimp on the top of the rice. Don’t stir it again. Cook 5 minutes more.

Remove from heat and allow to rest 10 minutes. The rice continues to cook from the heat of the cazuela.

Serve the rice with alioli garlic sauce.

Serve the black rice with alioli (garlic mayonnaise).

Garlic Mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg, at room temperature
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½  teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Put the garlic and egg in a blender and pulse until garlic is finely chopped. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a slow trickle, allowing it to be absorbed by the egg before adding more. Blend in all the oil. The sauce will emulsify and thicken. Blend in the salt and lemon juice.

The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 days. Makes 1 cup of sauce.


  1. Janet,

    You’ve been blogging since 2009, published 5 cookbooks, and share a strong camera-happy online presence in your blogs. The format is crisp, and your own, dotty! Your passion is obvious to me, it’s plain to see in the about me widget. I adore how you describe yourself as an American-born woman who’s been moved so much by all things Spanish, that this is where you now reside. Sigh, southern Spain sounds quite wonderful to me right now (as I type from Canada).

    The title of your blog is playful, which is why I stuck around for a read. I appreciate your personal spin on the classic Paella Negra, which features the traditional rice transformed by squid ink. You share your ups and downs with me, your audience, readily. Your last rendition of the dish wasn’t dark enough. You revisit the case by doing some research at CompuServe’s Spanish Forum (very cool by the way). I learn so much about you as a person already: humble, understandably human and most importantly willing to take advice from others.

    I’ve learned so much about this variable dish in the few paragraphs that I’ve skimmed. For example, you highlight the mass assumption that Paella Negra receives its colour not just necessarily from the easy-route sachets of cuttlefish ink, but alternately from a great patience. You share with me your discoveries regarding how the slow frying dish can be cooked, often to a near-fear of burning (to attain the same results)!

    The recipes are bolded for ease of reading. Your pictures contain concise subtext. The step by step flow of information gives me confidence that I can cook Paella Negra. Thank you for the inspiring post, Janet. You’re seasoned but accessible. Maybe one day we will have a meal together. I can only dream. Thoughts from Toronto to Spain.

    A bientot,

    1. Nathalie: Such lavish praise! Thank you. We seem to share a passion for Spanish cooking.