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Arroz negro is a traditional Spanish specialty originating from the Valencia and Catalan regions made simply with prawns, squid and squid ink. This dish with its ink stained rice is the epitome of of deep sea on a plate.
Now that spring is nearing its end, we have transitioned to lighter fare. Lots of salads, barely cooked meals, and seafood take center stage on our dinner table. I couldn’t be more excited to partner with Wente Vineyards to kick off summer with lots of delicious food, wine pairing, and more time spent with loved ones over communal dining. Having discovered Wente Vineyards many years ago while living in the Bay Area, we love their Morning Fog Chardonnay and enjoy pairing it with seafood, especially arroz negro, or squid ink paella.
Paella is the dish that made me fall in love with Spanish food but it’s arroz negro that cemented my love for Spain. Arroz negro is a traditional Spanish specialty originating from the Valencia and Catalan regions. Made simply with prawns, squid and squid ink, the striking ink stained rice makes this nothing short of a showstopper and is the epitome of deep sea flavor.
Arroz negro is all about depth of flavor. The intensity of flavor in the fish stock, the kind of rice, and the size of paella pan are the most important factors affecting how delicious this dish will turn out. For arroz negro, I used a basic homemade fish stock made from simmering a pound of prawn heads and tails with 4 cloves of garlic, 4 cups of water, and letting the volume reduce by half over 30 minutes. You can double or triple the amount to make what you need. If you don’t have time to make your own fish stock, get a quality stock from your fishmonger or local supermarket.
Use a short grain rice like Spanish bomba or Calasparra that will absorb more water than any other types of rice without losing its texture. The more stock the rice absorbs, the more flavor it will take on. A wide paella pan with a thin base allows the liquid to cook off quickly and evenly. The caramelization of the ingredients and how the rice cooks over the wide surface add different dimensions of flavor to the finished dish.
After cooking the squid rings, I quicky sauteed the onion then added garlic, and tomatoes to let everything caramelize before stirring in paprika and saffron. Then I stirred in the rice and let it cook in the sofrito (aromatic mixture of gently sautéed onions, garlic and tomatoes) before pouring in homemade fish stock, Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay, and squid ink. Everything is simmered for until the rice becomes tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Keep an eye on the mixture and add a tablespoon of water at a time if it’s becoming too dry. Unlike a risotto, only stir it occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom and burning. After 15 minutes, I arranged the prawns on top and let it cook covered with a lid for about 5-7 minutes.
When the prawns are cooked, I added the squid rings back into the pans, then took it off the stove to rest for about 10 minutes. Traditionally arroz negro is served with a garlicky saffron aioli but I found that this dish is so rich already, a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice add a lovely finish to this dish.
I love how the rice grains in the middle are tender but maintain some bites while the bottom has a crisp layer bursting with different textures and flavors. The braising liquid imbues every grain with heady ocean infused perfume and flavor that pairs perfectly with a glass of Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay. With notes of creamy lemon curd, graham, a touch of floral and vanilla, and a nice acidity, Morning Fog Chardonnay complements the richness of this dish. Next time you’re looking for a great wine to pair with seafood, look no further than Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay!
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- 1 lb prawns, head on
- 1/2 lb squid
- 1/4 c olive oil extra virgin
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- pinch of saffron
- 12 ounces Bomba or Calasparra rice
- 1/2 cup Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay
- 6 cups cups fish stock
- 60 ml squid ink
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped for serving
- 1 lemon, for serving
- To prepare the squid, remove wings from the squid and cut the bodies open down one side. Cut them into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Slice any large tentacles into bite size pieces.
- Heat olive oil in a paella pan over medium heat and add the squid to the pan and saute for 30 seconds then remove them from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onion and let it cook until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Add in the paprika and pinch of saffron and continue cooking on low heat until you have a soft, thick mixture, about 10-12 minutes.
- Add the rice to the pan and let it coat in tomato mixture.
- Pour the wine into the pan and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the fish stock and give it a quick stir before adding in the squid ink. Season with salt to taste.
- Bring the rice to a boil then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Leave the rice to cook for another 20 minutes Keep an eye on the mixture and stir occasionally to make sure the bottom of the pan is not burnt. At this stage, you don't want to stir frequently or you will disturb the socarrat base that has formed at the bottom of the pan. Add a tablespoon of water if it's becoming too dry. The texture of the rice should just be al dente.
- Add the prawns and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add back the squid.
- Remove the pan from heat and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- When ready to serve, divide the rice among 4 serving plates. Top with parsley and lemon wedge for serving.