Baked Rice from Alicante
Recipe courtesy of Savoring Spain and Portugal
Serves 6 - 8
Here is a baroque version of arroz al horno, or "baked rice." Meatballs chicken, pork, and chickpeas are buried in the rice in this specialty of Elche, a small town in the Alicante Province of Spain. This is an ideal dish for home entertaining, as it can be assembled up to four hours in advance and then finished in the oven just before serving.
For the Meatballs:
Baked Rice from Alicante
Click image to enlarge
To make the meatballs, in a bowl, combine the ground pork and/or veal, bread crumbs, almonds, parsley, egg, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Mix well and form into tiny meatballs each about 1 inch in diameter. Set aside.
Preheat a broiler. Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise and remove the stem, seeds, and ribs. Place, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Broil until the skin blackens and blisters, remove from the broiler, drape the pepper loosely with foil, and let cool for 10 minutes, then peel away the skin (discard skin). Place in a blender or food processor and set aside.
Preheat an oven to 350°F.
In a large ovenproof frying pan over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and sauté until tender, 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to the blender or food processor with the roasted red pepper. Add ½ cup of the chicken stock and process to form a smooth purée. Set aside.
Sprinkle the chicken and pork pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the oil remaining in the frying pan over high heat. Add the chicken and brown well on all sides, 5-8 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Brown the pork pieces, then the meatballs, then the bacon or sausage over high heat in the same oil. Set each aside with the chicken.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan over high heat, bring the remaining 3 1/2 cups stock to a boil, then reduce the heat to low to maintain a bare simmer. When you have finished browning the meats, add the rice to the oil remaining in the frying pan over medium heat. Stir well, then add the reserved pepper purée and cook for a few minutes until well blended. Add the simmering stock, the chickpeas, and the meats. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook uncovered, stirring often, until the favors are blended and some of the liquid is absorbed, about 7 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. (If making ahead, stop at this point. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Reheat in a 325°F/165°C oven until warmed through.)
Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving, then serve directly from the pan.