Alberto Cabrera – Bread + Butter
While this dish looks complicated much can be done ahead of time, making the final cooking and assembly easier than it appears. Don’t be deterred by all the ingredients – in this recipe each of the main ingredients is pre-cooked separately, and then at the end when you make the rice, the ingredients come together in a (relatively) easy way without taking a terribly long time.
1 lb grouper, snapper or other firm white-fleshed fish
1-3 oz can smoked mussels, rinsed and drained
8 oz white or yellow onion (about 1 large onion), caramelized (see instructions below)
8 oz shucked peas (see instructions below; fresh are preferred but you can use frozen)
¼ c chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
1 c popcorn emulsion (see instructions below)
1 lb bomba rice (see instructions below)
Make your main components:
1-2 white or yellow onions
1 tsp olive oil or butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Peel the onion and slice 1/8“-1/4” thick rings, then cut the rings in half. Place heavy-bottomed sauté or frying pan on medium heat, and add one tablespoon olive oil or half olive oil, half butter. When the oil begins to simmer, add the onion slices and stir to coat with the oil. Stirring occasionally to prevent the onions from burning, cook on medium-low for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the onions with half the salt and half the sugar, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. If it seems the onions are sticking, add a teaspoon or two of water. Continue cooking for another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The trick with caramelizing onions is to take is slow and keep the heat low. Let them get nicely golden caramel in color and don’t let them get too brown or burn! When cooked, set aside and reserve (you can do this a day or two ahead and keep them in the refrigerator until needed)
2 c peas, (fresh peas in season are much preferred to frozen)
1 shallot (sliced thin)
2 sprigs mint
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, then add the peas, shallots and mint. Add a pinch of salt and the water and cover with a lid. Cook for 4 minutes, then remove from the heat and add a bit more salt if needed. Set aside.
Popcorn Emulsion – Ingredients:
¼ c popped popcorn
½ c whole milk
½ c water
1 pinch of saffron
salt to taste
pinch of soy lecithin
Pop the popcorn and set aside. Place the milk and water in a pot and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and add the saffron and popcorn. Cook for 2 minutes, and set aside to cool. Cook for 2 minutes, remove from heat and set aside. When the popcorn mixture is cool, put it in a blender and purée until smooth, then strain. Rinse the blender and add the purée back with a pinch of soy lecithin and purée again until the lecithin is completely incorporated and bubbles form. Yes, set this aside until you assemble your rice.
Hang in there, you’re almost ready for dinner… time now to make the Bomba Rice.
2 tsp olive oil
1 yellow spanish onion, chopped
1 very ripe tomato, peeled and seeded
1 clove garlic, grated
¼ c good quality tomato sauce
¼ tsp Spanish paprika (pimenton de la vera)
3 c lobster or fish stock
1½ c Bomba rice
1. Prepare a “cooling bowl” by taking a large bowl (2-3 quart), adding ice to the bottom and nestling a smaller bowl (at least 1 quart) on top.
2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. As soon as it’s warmed, add the onions, garlic and tomato and cook for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the paprika, tomato sauce and the rice and stir to mix, then add the lobster or fish stock. Cook for 10 minutes and remove from the heat – it will still be very watery.
4. Strain the rice, reserving the excess stock.
5. Put the rice in cooling bowl (the one on top, not the one with the ice!) and stir to allow the rice to chill. Set aside (yes, another thing to set aside) until you’re ready to make your rice.
Completing your rice (Finally!):
In a large pan (a Paella pan, a Dutch oven or large sauté pan) add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the chunks of fish over medium heat just to color them through. Using a spatula, stir the fish until it is opaque.
When the fish is ready, add the reserved stock and one cup of popcorn emulsion, plus the smoked mussels and, if using, the optional confit octopus.
Cook over medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with the spatula to turn all the ingredients together, just until the rice is tender and a bit al dente in the center. Gently fold in the caramelized onion and the peas, being careful not to break up the fish, and let warm through.
Put a generous scoop of the rice mixture in a warmed bowl or deep plate, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
An optional touch:
For the adventurous home cook, Chef Alberto Cabrera originally included octopus confit in his dish. It is delicious but time consuming, so we include the directions as an option should you wish to give it a try.
½ lb fresh or frozen octopus
1 qt olive oil (this should be good quality, but don’t use your expensive oil!)
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
1. Thaw the octopus if it is frozen. Rinse it well, and if it is fresh, tenderize the octopus by hammering it with a wooden mallet.
2. If you are using a large tentacle, cut it in half crosswise. Place the large pieces of octopus in a small pot or roaster with all the other ingredients, being sure the meat is covered by the olive oil. If it doesn’t cover the meat, use a smaller pan or add more oil.
3. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil and bake undisturbed at 320°F for 3 hours, until tender.
4. Remove the pan from the oven, and let the meat cool to room temperature in the oil. Then portion the octopus by cutting the tentacles into eight, 1-ounce pieces.
5. Replace the cut pieces in the confit oil until needed (this can be done a day or two in advance and kept in the refrigerator). When plating the dish, include one piece of octopus in each serving.