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Recipe Mon Sep 22 2008
In honor of tomorrow night's Drive-Thru bodega party staff meeting, tonight I find myself 12-years-old again. For the meeting, we've each been asked to bring a dish made from ingredients found at our local bodega or corner grocery. I live downtown, but my bodega is in my old neighborhood of Logan Square. It's Tianguis. It's the only place I can find real New York-style Goya smoked chorizo. And that, friends, is the star ingredient of the best culinary memory of my childhood: the dish I learned to make before I learned to boil water, my mom's Spanish rice.
Before I became the home cook that I am now, this was my go-to dish. It still is. Every time I make it I remember my mom who passed on in 1996. With each bite I'm a child again, standing net to her at the stove. Actually, her being a Spanish mom, that would be more like me being shooed away from the hot stove for my own good under threat of paleta spanking. Or threatened with same in the morning for having picked all the chorizo out of the leftover rice under overnight cover of darkness.
Either way, it was worth it. I hope you'll think so, too. Here's how it goes:
2 cups medium-grain rice
4 smoked chorizo sausages (two packages), sliced*
1 medium jar pimento-filled Manzanilla olives, drained and rinsed*
1 medium jar capers, drained and rinsed*
1 medium Spanish onion, medium dice
1 medium red or green pepper, medium dice
1 packet Goya Sazón con Azafran powder*
12 oz. weak beer (e.g. Budweiser)
12 oz. water
2 pan turns of extra-virgin olive oil
(*Recipe notes: In NYC, you grow up surrounded by Goya products. I travel to Tianguis, 2722 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square, to get the starred products under the Goya label. So far, it is the only market I can find that sells Spanish-style smoked chorizo at all, which amazed me when I moved here since it's everywhere available back in Gotham. Don't use raw Mexican chorizo whatever you do, it's a different beast entirely and will ruin this poor-man's paella. Speaking of which, the Sazón con Azafran is essentially poor-man's saffron with MSG, but I grew up near--and eventually in--the barrio and that's my tradition. And yes, you are about to cook your rice in that beer.)
In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, drizzle the olive oil. When fragrant, add the sliced chorizo and brown.
Reserve the browned chorizo, being careful to retain the now-seasoned oil. Add the onion and pepper and sweat until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown.
Before the onions begin to caramelize, add the rice and Sazón powder and stir until the rice is well-coated. Allow the rice to toast for a minute or two while continuing to stir.
Add the reserved chorizo and the remaining ingredients, and cover with the beer and water. Bring to a boil and stir, then cover and simmer on low for 25 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
Take off heat and let sit for several minutes for the rice to finish steaming, then uncover, fluff with a large fork, and serve.
I like to serve this with lots of Tabasco sauce and pair it with a medium-intensity lager. Your mileage may vary. Just don't drink the Budweiser you cooked with or my mom will likely come back and haunt the both of us. I can still hear her now, "Honey, God put this beer on earth to cook with. If you were supposed to drink it, do you really think you'd be able to see right through it?"
Words to cook by if I ever heard any, from a slightly Hispanic childhood in Richmond Hill, Queens to you.