RICE STEW (ARRÒS A LA CASSOLA)

Thursdays are the “rice day”. Here many restaurants offer a fixed price menu, mostly on weekdays for lunch usually at a very reasonable price, that include two dishes (we call them first and second dish), dessert and drinks (water and wine or beer), and every Thursday they offer some sort of rice preparation in their menu. The most typical one is this rice stew or arròs a la cassola as we call it. To be honest, I had a hard time translating the name. In Catalan arròs is rice, and a cassola is a big deep pan where we cook all sorts of dishes, from stews to roasted meats; and I couldn’t find the right equivalent in English…

This is probably one of my favorite dish ever, if not my favorite! It is the best way one can possibly eat rice. If done properly there is not much out there that can taste any better! It is flavorful, creamy, rich and satisfying. Eat it with a salad and a nice red wine and you’re done for the day!

rice casserole (arros a la cassola) with shrimp, mussels, clams, cutlefish, and meat in a big cooking pan

A typical Catalan recipe that every family has its own version of it. It’s usually prepared on weekends because if done the right way and without shortcuts, it can be an elaborate recipe especially if cooked for many people (which is usually the case). It is also best when shared it with people, and at the end of the meal everyone will have something to say about it, whether it was good or bad, too cooked or underdone, too strong, too salty…

rice casserole (arros a la cassola) with shrimp, mussels, clams, cutlefish, and meat in the big cooking pan

The main ingredients of the dish are short-grain round rice such as bomba (Arborio-style), fish or meat stock, sofregit (sofrito in Spanish) and whatever you are doing your rice of: fish, meat, vegetables or a mix of everything. To get an idea it is a paella-style rice but juicier cooked in a big deep pan that holds more liquid.

The key to make a great rice casserole is good quality ingredients (like in pretty much all recipes, but this one is particularly sensitive to it…). You need high quality stock (preferably homemade) and high quality meat and seafood, otherwise you’ll end up with some sort of tasteless rice soup.

rice casserole (arros a la cassola) with shrimp, mussels, clams, cutlefish, and meat served in a white plate served

For this recipe we used a mix of seafood and meat, and homemade fish stock. Shrimp, mussels, clams and cuttlefish for the seafood; and small pork sausages and cut baby back ribs were our meat. If you are able to prepare your own fish stock I highly recommend it. Here we used some small fish that contain a lot of bones and are just used for preparing stock, and the head and bones from some white fish the fish lady gave us. To prepare the stock put the fish in a big pot with water and a couple of leeks, an onion and a carrot and bring it to a boil. Boil for 20-25 min and strain it before using it. You can also buy already prepared fish stock but look carefully what ingredients it contains, it should just be fish, water and a few veggies.

rice casserole (arros a la cassola) with shrimp, mussels, clams, cutlefish, and meat served in a white plate

At the end of the recipe I have written how I adapt the recipe when I make it in the US, so if you don’t have access to the same exact ingredients as the ones in the recipe, you can still prepare some pretty good rice stew!

rice casserole (arros a la cassola) with shrimp, mussels, clams, cutlefish, and meat served in a white plate

And lastly, make sure that everything and everyone are ready before adding the rice to the pan, because it must be eaten right away once it’s done. Don’t let it sit around for hours before eating it; you will have wasted your precious time!!

Enjoy enjoy and enjoy!!!

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rice casserole (arros a la cassola) with shrimp, mussels, clams, cutlefish, and meat in the big cooking pan

RICE STEW (ARRÒS A LA CASSOLA)

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 60 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Catalan

Description

Probably the best way one can possibly eat rice!! Tasty, creamy, just perfect!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 1/2 cups (500 gr) short-grain round rice such as bomba rice or arborio 
  • 12 cups (3 L) fish stock
  • 2 tbsp sofregit 
  • 12 mussels
  • 12 shrimp
  • 7 oz clams
  • 1 cuttlefish or calamari
  • 12 small pork sausages
  • 40 oz (23 pieces) baby pork ribs cut in 1 inch pieces
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. In the big cooking pan sauté the shrimp and cuttlefish with olive oil for 5 min and set aside.
  2. Sauté the ribs and sausages 5 min or until brown.
  3. Add the sofregit (see notes if yo don’t have it ready) and 3/4 of the fish stock and cook for 10 min.
  4. Add the rice and cook at medium heat for 15 min. Stir the rice but do not overdo it. If you see that the rice needs more stock add it little by little. If you run out of stock use water.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add the shrimp, cuttlefish and mussels and cook for another 5 min.
  7. Let rest for 5 min before serving it.

Notes

  • When I cook rice, I use the rule of thumb of 100 gr (3.5 oz or ½ cup) per person to know how much I need. And I usually add a bit more to have some leftovers ;).
  • If you don’t have sofregit ready to use, finely chop three tomatoes and two onions. After cooking the meat (step #2), set it aside and add the tomatoes and onions to the pan. Cook them with the juices or add more olive oil if necessary at a medium low heat until they turn brown but are not burnt. Then bring the meat back to the pan and follow the recipe from step #4.

For those not living in Spain and having a hard time finding these exact same ingredients you can adapt the recipe with a decent result. This is how I do it in the US:

  • I use Arborio rice if I don’t have the Spanish bomba type
  • I buy Spanish fish stock (Aneto) from a specialty store but it can also be found at Amazon (a bit expensive though…)
  • It is almost impossible for me to find head on shrimp in the US, so I try to get the ones that look darker and will have more taste.
  • You can substitute the cuttlefish for calamari without a problem.
  • For the small sausages I use PLAIN pork breakfast links. Do not use any sweet funky-seasoned links, it will ruin your rice!


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