This blog is usually reserved for more lofty communications than recipes.But I stopped to think today, while re-preparing the dish for an encore….who doesn’t enjoy a good meal of tastes that are not a familiar combo, of a taste that pulls you in like a long lost lover you fervently wish you had never lost?
RISO, PATATE E COZZE (RICE, POTATO AND MUSSELS) was the absolutely best food I prepared in 2010: no one seated around the dining room table could stop eating. We were in a collective trance, sated, but unable to stop eating. That desire– to keep on keeping on– ranks right up there with a good book, a great film, or the best of the best in yoga ( what I most often write about in this blog) so why nott?
Please note: I have wondered for days and a month why I did not discover this recipe sooner so I could have savored it more often. It’s that good!
Here it is. My “Pugliese” daughter Raffaella, will be proud of me, I hope, that I shared this recipe from her part of the world. I have modified it a bit, using a combo of brown rice and Arborio rice.
Assemble the ingredients in bowls, so that you can put the dish together with love and anticipating the delight of the end result.
RISO PATATE E COZZE
- 3/4 cup short grain brown rice, rinsed and soaked for 4 plus hours. Then par-boil the rice in a pot with a lid. Let the rice sit while you are slicing the onions and potatoes.
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and left for 4 hours in 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup Arborio (or Canaroli or Vialone nano) rice rinsed and soaked for 4 hours
- A bag of mussels ( about 3-4 lbs) rinsed. Remove any “beard” from the shell–though in these days of mussel farming we rarely see beard.Discard mussels with open or broken shells.
- 2 medium red onions sliced very thin
- 4 waxy yellow potatoes sliced very thin
- I can ( 14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, seasoned with sea salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
- 4 T extra virgin olive oil
Once everything is assembled, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook mussels in a bit of boiling water to open them. Get rid of any mussels that do not open. Reserve the liquid, straining it through a fine sieve to get rid of sand and shell. Set aside. ( If you are using straight from the sea mussels you can open them as if they are oysters and do not bother to boil them.)
Drain the rice, reserving the rice liquid. Mix the brown and white rices together. Mix the rice soaking water with the mussel water.
You have assembled bowls containing: 1) tomato, 2) potato, 3) onion, 4) cheese, 5) wet rice, 6) seasoned parsley, 7) rice soaking water combined with mussel cooking liquid, 8) olive oil tinged with garlic, 9) olive oil, 10) mussels ( on the counter, no need for a bowl).
Put 2T of olive oil into a large ovenproof casserole. I use my Le Crueset 4.5 quart Dutch Oven. A clay pot works nicely. You need a heavy pan that you can both put on the stove top and bake. Arrange a thin layer of onion covered by a thin layer of potato over the bottom of the casserole dish. Place 6-10 pieces of diced tomato on top. Sprinkle with seasoned parsley. Arrange a few mussels in their half shell ( or whole shell, if you want to save time), followed by a handful of wet rice and a sprinkling of pecorino. Drizzle some of the garlic seasoned olive oil on top. Continue to build up the layers finishing with potato, tomato and pecorino.
Drizzle on remaining 2 T olive oil. Carefully pour the rice/mussel water down the sides of the prepared dish until the liquid reaches up to the potato layer. (Push the contents down to see the water level.) Put the oven proof dish, with a lid or without a lid ( I use a lid) on a heat diffuser on top of the stove, and heat until the water comes to a boil. Remove from top of stove and put the casserole in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes to make sure it is not too dry, which might be the case if you do not have a lid for your ovenproof casserole.
Remove from oven after 40 minutes and let sit for at least an hour before serving.
What to serve with RISO PATATE E COZZE? Today I have steamed bok choy with a garlic and tahini sauce ( I used the leftover garlic cloves from above recipe); a sweet and sour steamed zucchini side dish; sliced turnip pickled in tarmari. For dessert: I baked apples to take advantage of the 350 degree oven.