June 8, 2012
Arroz Con Costra - baked rice with egg crust
This curious baked rice with an egg crust, which comes from Elche and Orihuela in Spain, is one of the oldest of the region. A remarkably similar recipe appears in the 14th century Libre del Coch, by Ruperto de Nola--whom some think was Valencian. In his recipe, it is cooked over direct heat, with ashes on the lid of the pan (traditional dutch oven), a method that still survives in the countryside around Elche and Orihuela but usually the dish is made in the oven.
I am not sure why I choose to make this dish. The ingredients were not unique, things I could buy in my market, but for some reason I put it on the menu.
As I was eating, it dawned on me that this dish was very reminiscent of a country paella.
A typical huntsman's paella is comprised of rabbit, chicken, saffron, sausages and, of course, short grain rice cooked over a wood fire and served family style.
I think, and this is solely my impression, that somewhere in an Inn, many, many years ago, a thrifty cook had much more paella left over at the end of day then she/he could bear to throw away, so she/he created this dish to use up the leftovers. Adding the egg crust was an ingenious way to camouflage the ingredients within for a pittance. Somehow it caught on and became a completely separate dish.
Or, I could be totally wrong and this dish was the precursor to the paella.
I probably would not make this again from scratch, but if I ever had leftover paella (homemade or doggy bag) I would not hesitate to mix up a few eggs with some scallions, baked on top to a crust and served as a new dish.
The Nudge said it had more flavor the second day when he reheated it for lunch. Another reason some dishes should be eaten the next day.
All you need is an oven safe skillet or a ceramic baking pan. I used a small dutch oven.
Baked Rice with Egg Crust
* 1 3/4 cups short grain rice
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 9 oz chicken, cut into chunks
* 9 oz veal stew meat, cut into small chunks
* 1 ripe tomato
* 1 - 1/4 quart white chicken stock or water
* 9 oz bratwurst and 9 oz Italian sausage, thickly sliced
* Pinch of saffron
* 8 oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed
* 12 eggs
* 3 scallions, green & white part, sliced
Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole, fry the chicken and rabbit, add the tomato and simmer slightly. Add the stock and let it simmer until the meat is tender (about 1 hour).
Spread the meat over the bottom of an ovenproof casserole; add the dry rice and saffron. Check the salting of the stock or water and pour it over the rice. Bake uncovered in a medium oven until the rice is almost dry.
Remove from the oven, and arrange the slices of sausages (raw of fried) over the top. Beat the eggs lightly with a little salt and scallions, pour them over the rice and put the casserole back into the oven for 8-10 minutes. This gives a rich, thick egg layer; if you want a thinner crust, use half the eggs.