Rice with Squid (August Daring Cooks)

For some time now I have been a fan of Jose’ Andres. I was first turned on to him by a friend and have been watching his show, Made in Spain, on PBS ever since. Imagine my surprise upon seeing the August challenge reveal by Olga of a wonderfully chosen recipe by Jose’. The recipe is a Catalan version of Arroz con Sepia, or Rice with Cuttlefish.

After much reading online and watching several videos of this and similar recipes being cooked, I got started on the foundation of many a Catalan recipe, the Sofregit. Also known as sofrito in many a Latin country. There are literally thousands of recipes for a base sauce such as this. I wanted to add as much flavor here as possible while still staying true to the authentic Catalan style. Making in advance and allowing to age was mentioned in the Daring Cooks discussion threads and seemed one more way of achieving a richer and fuller flavor.

I started with Walla Walla sweet onions and slowly caramelized them over very low heat in a bit of olive oil. Stir often and don’t be in a hurry. Slowly they will take on more and more color.

Pour off the extra oil and to this I added in roasted red bell pepper and a half a head of roasted garlic.

Now the recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, but only very rarely do good tomatoes make it to the markets of Anchorage. I have taken to using Muir Glen whole canned tomatoes in many sauces and am always pleased with the results. So I added a 28oz can of those that I hand crushed. To this I added a couple bay leaves, some fresh thyme, a bit of cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Let cook over medium heat and stir often. The liquid from the tomatoes will slowly cook out. At a magical moment the sofregit will stop boiling and start frying. Now it is very important to stir often so as to prevent anything from sticking and scorching.

This process gives the sauce a deep burgundy color and thickness that seems to match Jose’s from the TV show. His seemed almost like a marmalade of tomato and caramelized onion. I think mine came very close to that. It was so good that I ate some on grilled focaccia for dinner that night. The rest was set aside for a few days in the fridge to age.

On the day of the actual meal I headed out to New Sagaya Midtown to shop for fish and for a cuttlefish substitute. The fish was easy enough. I have used many a snapper in the past to make fish stock. Even used it to make another Spainish dish very similar to paella called fideua. So pink snapper, head on shrimp, and fresh squid made it into the basket.

The snapper was scaled for me at the fish counter. I fileted it myself and set those back in the fridge for later.

The head and carcass ended up in a pot with some shrimp heads and shells and a couple turns of olive oil. I saved the shrimp meat for another meal.

Sautee until just a little color is left on the bottom of the pot. Then deglaze with white wine. I used this delicious Pinot Gris from Oregon.

Cook off most of the wine and then add in your other goodies. I added some leek, shallots, garlic, parsley, fennel stems, fennel fronds, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.

Cover with water and bring to a slow simmer. Do not boil! A wonderful trick when making stocks to keep them clear is to only put half the pot over the heat. A beautiful raft will develop on top that can be skimmed to get rid of any scum. After about 30-40 minutes, take off the heat and strain. I first strain in a collander and then again through a collander lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel. You will be left with a beautiful golden clear liquid that tastes like it needs salt. So add some.

In a strange bit of synchronicity, almost the very next day PBS aired a show called Kings of Camouflage about you guessed it, cuttlefish. These are truly some very unique creatures. I kept wondering during the entire show “how do they taste”.

Well try as I might, no cuttlefish was to be found. So I went with fresh whole squid. These are usually available around this time of year and are caught off the coast of Southern California. Delicious little creatures and the best substitute I could find.

Cleaning these are fairly straight forward. Pull the head and tentacles away from the body. Put a finger inside the body and scrape out any remaining guts and the pieces of cartilege that makeup a squid’s skeleton. Gently peel off the skin from the body. I usually start at the little wings. It peels away easily from there. Then go back to the head/tentacle section and cut away the tentacles. This leaves only a very small piece of squid that is not used.

I cut the bodies into rings. Set aside your cleaned bodies and tentacles.

Now for the  artichokes. I am not a big artichoke fan. I imagine that if I lived in California and could get them often that would change. They always seemed like such a pain in the ass for very little reward. I had told myself that I was going to stay as true to the spirit of the challenge as possible. Our host had reccommended fresh over canned and that made sense to me. So many canned vegetables taste more of tin than anything else. So I started breaking down my fresh artichokes.

Not the best examples but I do live in Alaska. Google is a better source of information on how to break these down. Short version is cut off top, use spoon to cut out the choke, peel off big leaves, peel down to heart and along stem to reveal the creamy flesh of the artichoke heart. As soon as you get done toss into lemon water to keep from browning. The hearts were cut into eighths.

Next was the mushrooms. I cut up a bunch of oyster mushrooms.

Finally, time to start the actual cooking. A paella pan would be appropriate here but I don’t have one. I do have a really cool copper and stainless skillet that will work just fine. Let it get hot and add in a few turns of olive oil. Add in your squid and a couple of bay leaves. The squid gives off alot of water. I turned up the heat and allowed all of that to cook off.

I was a bit concerned that the squid would be super tough. It is one of those foods that should be cooked for 2 minutes or 2 hours. Trusting in our challenge host I forged ahead. When the water was gone from the squid I tossed in the artichoke hearts, and mushrooms. The mushrooms gave off a bit of liquid as well. Let them actually caramelize a bit before stirring.

Then when everything has taken on some color, deglaze with some more of that great white wine.

Be sure to loosen all the bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Before all the wine has cooked out, add in several heeping spoonfuls of sofregit.

Stir to incorporate and then add in your stock. I was going to be using about 1 1/2 cups of medium grain rice so I added in twice that amount of stock plus a little more because this dish is cooked uncovered. So about 3 1/2 cups of fish stock. Now toss in about $5 worth of saffron threads. At this point I also tossed in small chunks of the snapper filets.


I was surprised by how so little of the saffron added so much color. Much of the red is from the sofregit but the orange undertone is all from the saffron. Let this come to a simmer and then add  in your rice.

Some of the other Daring Cooks used sushi rice or even arborio rice but neither of these seemed appropriate for a dish very similar to paella. Both of those seem way too starchy to me. I was unable to find Calaspara or Montsant. So I went with a medium grain that would not give off so much starch and would still be firm and separate when finished. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes and then let rest with the heat cut off for another 5.

I have purposefully avoided mentioning the allioli that is supposed to accompany this dish. Many times I have made aioli from scratch and thought this Catalan version would be no problem. Not sure what happened but for the life of me I was unable to get a proper emulsion. Actually it was probably due to my rushing the process. Anyway, I ended up with a broken allioli of roasted garlic. Can I call it De-Constructed and act like it is better than the real thing?

I plated simply making sure to get lots of squid, some chunks of snapper, and some artichokes. Dressed it up a bit with some of the sofregit that had been warmed, some of the “allioli”, and a bit of green onion.

I resisted adding sausage or other stronger flavors so as to get the true flavor of the dish suggested by Jose’. The squid turned out wonderful. Not tough at all but also not mush. It had some bite but was tender as well. The broken allioli was very tasty and added so much to the dish. Overall I think I got the “balance” of the dish on my very first try. Not something that happens everytime.

Thanks Olga for a wonderful challenge. Be sure to check out the other Daring Cooks versions of this dish. You might get a more narrowed list by googling “Daring Cooks August”.

~ by climbhighak on August 14, 2009.

41 Responses to “Rice with Squid (August Daring Cooks)”

  1. OMG! Love your photos – and that fish… I would love to try your version of this month’s challenge! Grat job! Cheers 🙂

  2. Your ingredients look so wonderfully fresh! I love the fact you char-grilled your vegetables, I am sure it gave the dish fantastic flavour.

  3. I’m blown away. Snapper along with squid in this dish sounds extremely delicious. Your photos are incredible too – I think you do the best ‘step by step’ demos online! As for not liking artichokes, I have a stuffed artichoke recipe that would make you an artichoke fan instantly..seriously. I’ll be blogging about it come Fall or Winter 🙂

    All in all, phenomenal job as always, wish I could have tasted some!

    • I should clarify on the artichokes. I just don’t like all the prep and waste involved. They taste wonderful and I would love to taste your stuffed artichokes.

      They really added to this dish and I will not make it without them in the future.

  4. You got me antsy waiting for your version..you left us hanging w/ your sofrit=;). I love the idea roasting of the ingredients for the sofrito, that’s an added bonus flavor to a wonderful dish. Your sofrit sure looked like Jose Andre’s. So w/c aioli did you use? i did the traditional, it was a bit tidious but i was satisfied w/ the result. As for the fresh artichoke i opted w/ the brined one in the jar, coz it was expensive. I was also tempted to add chorizo but held back and tried to stay w/ the original recipe. Yours look scrumptious and love your platting. Thanks again Robert!

    • After posting those teasers of my sofregit in the DC forums I got busy with work and fishing. Silver salmon(coho) are running right now.

      My allioli was a flop. That is why it got no photos and only a few words on how it flopped. Just my rushing the process caused the lack of success.

  5. Terrific! The slow cooked Sofregit using roasted garlic and peppers looks great! Actually, the entire dish and process look terrific! Another top-notch DC Challenge for you!

  6. What an amazing job you did with this challenge. Your substitution in the absence of cuttlefish was a good idea. I had to substitute chicken because cuttlefish is not something to be found in Tucson, Arizona and I’m highly allergic to any sort of seafood. I’m convinced my chicken did not make as delicious a result as yours, but my husband was happy nonetheless.

  7. Yours turned out beautifully! I love the color of your sofregit =)

  8. Looks fabulous…I also appreciate the lesson on preparing squid.

    • There is a great simple appetizer using small squid bodies. Stuff the cleaned bodies with rendered pancetta and smoked mozzarella. Quickly sautee in olive oil and just a bit of lemon juice at the end.

  9. Using caramelized onions and roasted vegetables in the sofregit is a wonderful variation! It must have added a whole other dimention to the sauce! Superb job on this challenge!

  10. Your dish looks SO good! Maybe it was the slower cooking process of the sofregit, but yours sure looks a lot richer and more flavorful than mine. Mine was good, just not as flavorful as I was expecting. Good job on the artichokes-I hate dealing with them also, and found frozen ones at Carrs and that’s what I used. No “tinny” taste like you get with the canned. My aioli broke also. I used the recipe from David Lebovitz’s blog, and did it by hand, and it was beautiful-thick and creamy. I set it aside until my dish finished cooking, and when I came back to it it was as thin and runny as could be. Got one dollop that was on my spoon I had set aside. I guess I probably added the oil too quickly. Anyway, great job on yours. By the way, do you work in the food industry in Anchorage, or is it just a hobby?

    • I am a big fan of roasting peppers and other veggies to add depth of flavor. It works really well in salsas too.

      As for the cooking, it is just a passion. Haven’t found a way to make a living at it yet.

  11. Nice post! Like how you’d taken the time to make everything from scratch. The end result must have tasted something special 🙂

  12. Wonderful post and pictures. A basic and a must in both Spanish and Catalan traditional cuisine is cooking time. I remember my grandma starting cooking at 9am for lunch time at 2pm. Sofregit is one of those dishes and you have got the essence perfectly. Congratulations!!

  13. I am drooling over those roasted veggies in your sofregit, just gorgeous! Love all your step by step photos!

  14. Wow. Thats about all I can say, Your dish looks unbelievably good, and the roasted vegetable sofregit looks flawless. Yum.

  15. What a great post, I admire your step-by-step photos…I’m not a seafood eater but you made everything look so delicious! I’m also admiring the color and texture of your sofregit. I’d like to try it again to achieve the dark color and jammy texture… mine was delicious, but was more like a sauce than a marmalade. Very impressive!

  16. Great job on this challenge! Looking at your dish, I think I should have used more cuttlefish. Might have helped in my case. Great idea with roasting the veggies for the sofregit!

  17. Wow, thanks for posting a way to make sofregit with canned tomatoes. That will be really helpful for me in the winter when there aren’t good farm fresh tomatoes around.

  18. I love those magical moments in cooking 🙂

    Your colors look so rich and wonderful! That saffron is incredible!

  19. What a beautiful write up.

  20. Wonderful. Great photos and a very good step-to step explanation of the recipe. Congrats

  21. Really great suggestions for getting the most flavors in the sofregit and fish stock. Excellent (and instructional) photos. Yes, you can call your allioli “deconstructed.” Wish I’d thought of that. You might not have access to farm-fresh tomatoes, but your fresh seafood more than compensates. I am envious of your mad skills with the fish.

  22. Well done on this challenge! Your squid is so small compaired to my gigantic one…! Great step by step photos too!

  23. Great job Robert! I always love to read your blogs cuz I learn so much. I never tried “making a raft” when I do my stock, and I will keep that in mind. I have also never tried to cook (or eat) squid. If I ever get the balls to try it, I know who to turn to. I was also glad to see the roasted/carmalized veggies. I do a lot of veggie grilling while it’s warm enough so I like to find new ways to use the extra. I might have to whip up a batch of this sofregit!

  24. Yours looks fabulous and I love all the photos of the various stages, will small people underfoot most of the time I forget to take photos along the way.

  25. Wow wonderful posting and so detailed and the final dish looks excellent. You showed every stage so well and yes the good thing about the allioli is that if it breaks you can still use it. I love how you did the roasted/carmalised veggies in the tomato sauce. Bravo bravo bravo one of the best posts I have seen to date. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  26. I like your version of sofregit, the caramelised onions and roasted peppers and garlic will make such a huge difference to the flavours.

  27. Such instructive photos. I feel like I was in the kitchen with you. I agree with you the recipe needs the chorizo. Loved the roasted vegetables. I added Smoked Pimenton to get the smoky taste. Next time I am making it over an outside firepit. Great Job.

  28. Your dish looks delicious and the photos are fantastic.

  29. José Andrés

  30. Wow! Your dish looks so delicious – I like your version of sofregit!
    I love your step-by-step photos!

  31. That looks amazing. Thanks for such a detailed post, I’ll definitely be trying this soon, and have added your site to my RSS feed list.

    Andrew –

  32. Cuttlefish is very similar to squid with enough difference to know it is not the same creature. Your dish looks delish! I do love Spanish food! It is tomato season here. If I could, I’d ship you some — if you want, I send you another batch of sauce 😀

  33. Fantastic photos and wonderful plating. Your dish has a true warmth. I love the idea of adding roasted peppers to the sofregit. I also worried the squid would be rubbery, but it wasn’t at all. Great job on the challenge.

  34. AWESOME job! I just got back in town and am able to finally reply. I love what you did with the sofregit… I bet that added TONS of necessary flavor. That artichoke looks HUGE btw! Hah! I also love the pics of the cuttlefish. I had no idea what they were 🙂 Mmmm and Oregon Pinot Grigio? YUM! Nicely done 😀

  35. Hello from Barcelona, i like your blog very much!

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