How many times do you find yourself smiling while thinking of the many wonderful things we have in common with people even from the other side of the globe? Parents especially have like a universal code, don’t you think? And no matter how culture has shaped our vision of the world, when it comes to our children we have some universal tricks of the trade somehow encrypted in our genes, generation and geographical locations aside. Every good mother in every country has under her sleeve a particular comfort food to give their kids when time is tight or appetites are low. Here in Puerto Rico it’s white rice with corn and a fried egg. And ketchup. Even though it has now become a hip global trend for people to crown their favorite foods with a soft and creamy egg, here in Puerto Rico we have been doing this since forever in time. Call it budget or complicated afternoons, the idea of serving this warm, uncomplicated satisfying meal has been appealing for both sides of the table for a very long time.
As a kid I enjoyed this dish many times. So it occurred to me the other day to give it a grown up spin, making a risotto instead of the classic plain rice. I did this recao risotto, extremely simple and yet extremely delicious. Recao, also known as long or spiny coriander, is a peppery pungent herb used in many Puerto Rican dishes, but it’s usually buried in tomato sauce or beefy fatty stews. The nice thing about this dish is that it has a herbaceous taste because the recao is the only flavor of the risotto, so it’s notes really come thru.
For the eggs, I fried them in olive oil, with lots of ground pepper, salt and Parmesan cheese on top, it really adds another dimension and texture to this plate. I served sautéed asparagus along with this dish. Instead of boiling or steaming, you throw them in a skillet or griddle with olive oil and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook them for a couple of minutes to get some chewy and crunchy sticks of spring heaven in your plate. The end result is really wonderful. You have to try this dish soon because you are going to love it and because it’s a great excuse to visit culinary markets to find recao and start experimenting with it, like with this Puerto Rican chicken fricassee.
Before you start cooking the recipe, let me share with you my ways of making risotto, so you can make the best risotto anytime:
1. Have your liquid warm and ready to add to the pan. It really makes a big difference on how the rice cooks, yielding a creamier sauce.
2. The most important thing is to add the liquid when the rice looks dry and the liquid on the pan has basically evaporated. As a guideline, when the rice looks dry and you push it with the spoon and there is no liquid returning from the sides it’s time to add the next ½ cup of liquid.
3. Remember that you need 25 to 30 minutes to cook the risotto, so nothing good comes when rushing the additions of liquid, but at the last five minutes though, you will need to add what is remaining. That is how the rice ends up with the particular creamy consistency of risotto. Insert here the it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon quote!
4. If you think the rice is cooking too fast you can bring down the heat a little bit and then return to medium heat after a few minutes.
5. There will be caramelization of the rice on the bottom of the pan. Take advantage of this by adding the liquid in that spot and scratching all the bits possible in a couple of seconds before continuing to move the rice.
4 to 6 persons
Total and active time - 35 minutes
Equipment - Cast iron pan or deep skillet
Shallots, roughly diced – ½ cup
Recao, roughly chopped – ½ cup + 3 TBSP
Olive oil – 3 to 4 TBSP
Fine sea salt – ½ Tsp
Arborio rice – 2 cups
Chicken, vegetable stock or water – 6 ½ cups
Parmesan cheese, grated – ¼ to ½ cup to serve
Freshly ground black pepper – to serve
In a medium pot or saucepan heat the liquid over medium to low heat and keep it warm in the burner.
Using a small blender or food processor grind or chop the shallots, the recao and the olive oil. Heat the mixture in a medium cast iron pan and sauté in medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, tossing and moving constantly with a wooden spoon until the shallots begin to look transparent and become softer. Add the salt and combine everything again. If the mixture becomes too dry add a drizzle of olive oil.
Add the rice to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes, integrating everything and letting the rice absorb some of the olive oil. Using a ladle spoon add about ½ cup of the stock. Mix everything constantly and let the rice absorb the liquid, about 1 to 2 minutes. When it looks dry and you push the rice with the spoon and there is no liquid returning from the sides it’s time to add the next ½ cup of liquid. Repeat this process a couple of times more. After the first 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, the intervals of adding liquid are going to be longer, since the rice is now saturating with the liquid. Continue doing this process until you reach a total cooking time of 25 to 30 minutes, until the rice is creamy and al dente (see note on top). Add the Parmesan cheese and some ground pepper at the end to serve.
Total time - 5 minutes per egg
Organic free range eggs – 4 to 6
Olive oil – 2 to 3 TBSP
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper and Parmesan cheese - to serve
In a medium skillet heat the oil in medium heat. When it begins to make very tiny bubbles add the eggs, one at a time. Let the eggs fry for 3 to 5 minutes, until all the egg white is firm but the yolk is still nice and runny. Retire from the skillet and place on top of the rice. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper and Parmesan cheese.
Total and active time - 5 minutes
Asparagus stalks – 6 to 8 per person
Olive oil – 2 TBSP
Fine sea salt – ¼ Tsp
Freshly ground pepper – ¼ Tsp
Place the asparagus in a medium skillet. Drizzle the oil and sprinkle the salt and pepper. Using thongs toss the asparagus until they are all coated with the oil, salt and pepper. Bring the heat to medium and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until you hear them sizzling. Toss them over and cook for about 2 minutes more. If you prefer softer and chewer asparagus let them cook 1 or 2 more minutes on both sides.