This rice dish is layered with porky flavor—fresh pork, pork fat, ham stock and strips of ibérico ham. Fresh ibérico pork is widely available in Spain. Most hams and fresh ibérico meat are from cross-breed pigs that are fed pig feed. From specialty butchers, you might find fresh pork that is 100 percent ibérico de bellota—meat from all-ibérico pigs that have been finished on bellotas—acorns.
Any of the usual cuts—lagarto, pluma, secreto, presa, solomillo—are fine for this recipe. For my version, I cut the bone away from a thick-cut loin chop and trimmed the excess fat to use for browning the meat.
Ibérico pork is best cooked to medium-rare, still pink on the inside. The meat retains some of the fat, which keeps it juicy. It will be sufficiently cooked after the browning process. Remove the pieces of meat from the pan while the rice cooks and return them at the end of the cooking time.
Use medium-short-grained (round) rice, the same kind used for paella. Bomba is the best rice variety for this dish, which cooks with enough liquid to finish meloso, or a little soupy.
The best liquid for cooking the rice is caldo de puchero—the strained soup made with chicken, beef and ham bone. If not available use ham stock plus chicken stock. Have the chicken stock hot when ready to add to the rice. If the ham and chicken stock are well-flavored, the rice will probably not need additional salt.
Use a paella pan, perol (deep, two-handled frying pan), cazuela, flat-bottomed wok or skillet to cook the rice. I used a cast-iron skillet.
|Cut fresh pork in large chunks and brown them first.|
8-10 ounces boneless ibérico pork
Freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chopped onions
¼ cup chopped carrot
2 tablespoons Sherry
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
½ cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup ham stock
½ teaspoon miso (optional)
1 cup medium-short-grained rice
3 cups hot chicken stock
Salt, as needed
6 asparagus stalks (optional)
1 ounce slivered ibérico ham
|Browned pork and mushrooms.|
Trim off excess fat from the meat. Dice the fat. Cut the meat into 1 ½-inch chunks Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan. Add diced pork fat and cook on medium heat until the fat is rendered out, 2 minutes. Add the chunks of meat and brown them slowly on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Skim out the meat and reserve. Add the mushrooms to the pan with 1 tablespoon more of oil. Fry the mushrooms until browned and skim them out.
Keep the heat on medium. Add the onions and carrot to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the Sherry and cook until liquid evaporates. Add remaining Sherry and cook it off. Add the garlic and green pepper and continue sautéing the mixture until peppers are softened, 3 minutes.
Stir in the pimentón. Immediately add the tomatoes. Cook them 5 minutes until tomatoes are thickened and beginning to brown. Add the contents of the skillet to a blender with the miso, if using, and the ham stock. Blend to make a smooth puree.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the mixture from the blender. Stir in the rice. Add the hot chicken stock, saving ½ cup to be added at the end of the cooking time. Taste the liquid and add salt if necessary. Add the fried mushrooms. Add a sprig of rosemary. Add the asparagus, if using. Stir to combine. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat slightly so that the rice bubbles. Cook, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Use a wooden paddle to stir gently. Lower heat and cook the rice 5 minutes more. Add remaining ½ cup of the chicken stock. Do not stir. Place the chunks of meat in the rice. Cook 3 minutes more or until the rice is cooked al dente.
Discard cooked rosemary. Scatter the slivers of ham on top of the rice and tent the pan with foil. Allow to set 10 minutes. Serve the rice in the same pan in which it cooked with a fresh sprig of rosemary on top.
|After browning, the ibérico pork is cooked medium-rare and still juicy. Return it to the pan after the rice is cooked.|
If you’re starting from scratch, here is the authentic recipe for Andalusian puchero, incorporating chicken, beef and ham bones, chickpeas and vegetables.