Sherry for Everyone!


Why not?  Today’s entry, Arroz con Perdiz, takes a generous cup of it, but it leaves plenty in the bottle to raise spirits.  So to speak.  The alcohol definitely makes the dish happy, the slightly sweet profile tantalizes and ties together the bird, rice and vegetables and sends them aloft.

The Spanish term arroz con perdiz, means, “rice with partridge,” and it’s similar to paella, from the same region.   Just as paella is demonstrably Spanish, this effort speaks as eloquently of its source as do the  sherry and bomba rice that go into it.

Of course, what you see above is half a Cornish hen, not a partridge, but hen is a common alternative.  Fortunate, because partridge is difficult to find around here, and while it can be ordered, the option is expensive and it takes some time to complete.  This site delights in visiting obscure corners of the culinary universe, but not at the cost of placing discoveries beyond emulation.  What would be the point?

Besides, this is chicken and rice, but with a distinctly Iberian flavor.  It’s what attracted when the recipe first appeared in the February 2018 issue of Saveur.  The birds nestle in the rice and cook alongside it, infusing the grains with their essence while drawing in the intriguing tastes that surround.  Mushrooms establish an earthy base, while chopped onions enliven it.  Tomato paste and carrots play a sweet melody, which the sherry elevates.   Rosemary and thyme are great travelling companions for poultry and contribute herbal freshness.Rosemary & ThymeNaturally, having the two growing in the herb garden was convenient, but their ability to make the dish hum is what cinched it.

Poultry’s excellence at absorbing flavors already has been mentioned, but the same is true of rice, particularly the bomba chosen today.  This is a short-grained Spanish variety ideal for the application because its relatively small area concentrates taste.  Standard long-grain rice is fine, and still works well, but there’s a reason bomba is cultivated with this dish in mind.

Above all, though, is the sherry:SHERRY

It unlocks arroz com perdiz and makes it sing.  Then again, we all would after a cup of this.  The dish is superlative even without the alcohol, but sherry is what makes this Spanish and the booze doesn’t hurt, does it?

*****

Arroz con Perdiz

(Saffron Rice with Partridge and Sherry)

For the stock (*1):

  • 2 partridge backbones, removed when preparing the birds (*2)
  • 2 and 1/2 pounds pork bones
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 stalk celery, halved (*3)
  • 1 medium onion, halved (*4)
  • 1 large turnip, halved

For the rice:

  • 6 pounds partridge, halved (*5)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced (*6)
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 2 portabella mushrooms, diced
  • 1 cup sherry
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 cups bomba rice (*7)

Remove the backbones from the birds.  Reserve two backbones for the stock and discard the rest.  Cut birds lengthwise along the breast cartilage, producing two halves.  Refrigerate the birds in a zip-top bag for later use.

For the stock, put the two backbones, pork bones, peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, carrot celery, onion and turnip in a large pot and cover them with 10 cups of water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then immediately reduce heat to maintain a low simmer.  Cook for two hours, skimming any debris that rises to the surface.  Turn off heat and when stock has cooled enough to handle, strain it into a separate container and discard the solids.  This should leave you about 7 cups of stock.

Remove the birds from the refrigerator and pat them dry, Use a teaspoon of salt (total) to season the birds, both sides.  In a large skillet over medium heat pour in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and heat it until the oil shimmers.  Place the birds in a single layer in the pan, skin side up.  Cook thusly for seven minutes, then flip the birds and season them with freshly-ground pepper.  Cook for an additional ten minutes.  Remove the birds to a separate plate.

Maintain heat beneath the skillet and, once the birds are removed, pour in the remaining olive oil.  Add the diced carrots and onions, and season these with salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about ten minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and mushrooms and add salt to taste.  Cook for a couple minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.

Stir in the sherry, saffron, bay leaves, dried thyme, fresh thyme and fresh rosemary.  Return the birds to the skillet, in a single layer and skin-side up.  Pour in enough stock to cover the birds three-quarters of the way.  Bring to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover partially and cook for 45 minutes.

Remove the lid and add the rice, keeping it beneath the liquid as much as possible.  Simmer until the rice is tender, adding more stock if needed, about 25 minutes.  Plate individual servings and garnish with fresh thyme and rosemary if desired.

NOTES:

1 – To save considerable time and effort, you may want to use seven cups of chicken stock instead of making everything from scratch.  That said, the freshly-made stock is worth all the trouble, as the pork bones lace the it with a deliciously Spanish influence and the taste is superb.  Moreover, this flavor bastes the birds later.  Of course, if you don’t have two hours…

2 – Good poultry shears make quick work of this, but a sharp knife may be used.  Be sure to take care.

3 –  Include the leaves, perfectly edible, as they have most of celery’s flavor.

4 – If this isn’t your first time reading the journal, you know I prefer shallots.  Two medium shallots fill in nicely for one medium onion.

5 – Cornish hens are a much more accessible option, at least they are here in North America. As hens are a bit larger than partridges, six pounds comes to around four birds.

6 – See Note 4, above.

7 – If you can’t find bomba, arborio rice comes fairly close.  As mentioned in the text above, even standard long-grain rice will work, but it won’t be quite as good.  Avoid instant rice, as the short cooking time doesn’t allow much flavor to be absorbed and the grains, structurally speaking, aren’t up to the task.

6 thoughts on “Sherry for Everyone!

  1. Thanks much for the encouragement! Many cultures, perhaps most, have developed some kind of rice dish, but paella is in a class beyond. Even if the Spanish had done nothing else, paella would have been enough, Spain’s gift to the world. Drizzled with olive oil and sherry? Good Lord. Dammit, now I’m hungry!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That looks excellent!! Its made me so hungry just looking at it. Your family and friends are so lucky to have you cooking for them. Those rice and chicken look delectable. Amazing recipe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your continued interest and thoughtful compliments mean much – thank you! Most posts, it seems, involve birds of one kind or another. Naturally, as I’m a poultry fiend. Still, future paths will wend more. It’s what loyal readers deserve, and what I need to maintain my interest.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Naturally, the only dishes here are those that inspire personal curiosity, so that enthusiasm confers an advantage. What you see, though, always is the first attempt at something new. As such, the arroz con perdiz (OK, hen) wasn’t bad. Maybe that’s just the sherry talking, but there’s still some left in the bottle, I swear.

      Liked by 1 person

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