Baked Rice with Black Sausage and Valencian Meatballs

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    8

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

For this prize-winning recipe—a stunning winter rice dish of meatballs, pork ribs, black sausage, potatoes, and chickpeas—I must thank Bertha Gilberta Ivañez, the cook at the Hosteria del Montsant in Jativa near Valencia.

“On Sundays, when I was growing up,” Bertha told me, “we would take this rice dish to the baker's oven before attending mass. You don't need to serve anything else, just a salad. And it's even better the next day, served at room temperature or reheated over boiling water.”

Award-winning recipes always have their nuances and special touches. Here are some of Bertha's, which, you'll note, are nearly the same as Norberto Jorge's paella: the rice of choice is a Spanish medium-grain rice that has what Bertha called “a satisfying chew”; don't ever wash the rice; be sure the liquid is boiling before adding it to the rice; stir the rice only once; let the rice rest for at least ten minutes before serving, allowing it to continue to absorb flavor.

As the meatballs must stand overnight, plan accordingly.

Ingredients

  • Valencian Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins
  • ½ pound morcilla or black sausage (see Mail Order Sources), preferably made with onions, sliced on the diagonal
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
  • 4 small ripe tomatoes, halved and gently squeezed to remove the seeds
  • 1 pound country-style pork ribs, bone in and cracked in half
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 whole head of garlic, scrubbed
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups (1 pound) Spanish rice, preferably bomba from Valencia (see Mail Order Sources)
  • ½ teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinches of grated nutmeg

Method

  1. Make the meatballs as described in the recipe that follows.
  2. In a large flameproof casserole or wide saucepan over medium heat, slowly brown the sausage slices in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until crisp on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to an oiled 12-inch cazuela and set in a cool place.
  3. In the same casserole, slowly brown the diced potato until golden but not tender. Transfer to the cazuela. Heat another tablespoon olive oil in the casserole and quickly fry the tomato halves, cut side down; remove them to a side dish.
  4. Add the pork ribs to the casserole and sauté over high heat, turning, until browned. Add the chopped onion and fry for an instant. Add the whole garlic head, drained chickpeas, and 10 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil, skimming; reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
  5. Remove the garlic head, rub off one layer of the paper, clip off the top to expose the beehive pattern, and set aside. Drop the small meatballs one by one into the boiling liquid. Cover and poach for 30 minutes. Remove the meatballs and set aside. Remove the pork ribs; discard the bones and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425°F. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chickpeas to the cazuela. Add the pieces of pork. Set the cazuela over a heat diffuser and heat until hot and sizzling. Add the rice and stir with the sausage slices until coated with oily juices.
  7. Measure the broth, add the paprika and saffron, and boil quickly to reduce to 4 cups. Correct the seasoning with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour the boiling broth over the rice. Cook for a few minutes, then spread the meatballs and tomato halves, cut side up, on top of the rice. Place the garlic head in the center. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for 30 more minutes, until the rice is almost cooked. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let finish cooking in the receding heat, about 15 minutes longer. Serve as is, or reheat under the broiler or over steaming water. Do not reheat in the microwave.

In this section