It’s Complicated!


I have a LOT of cookbooks.  On my last trip to the bookstore I stood in the cookbook section and noticed I had most of the cookbooks within the three shelves I happened to be standing next to.  As I thought about writing this post I decided I should count and found out I have 66 cookbooks.  And actually a funny story,  I was talking to my friend Mary and she was telling me about a cookbook she had purchased but found the recipes were pretty involved.  She then said that I might actually like it.  I asked her what it was and guess what…I already owned it!

That cookbook is called Slow Fires, which I received for Christmas.  Mary bought it because she went to author’s restaurant in New York, Upland.

The recipe I had tagged was for Black Rice with Squid and Sausage.  I had never made black rice before so immediately I was excited.  The recipe yielded 6 serving so since the weather was going to be super nice and Matt and I had spent the previous day cleaning up the yard a bit,  I thought it would great to invite over friends for dinner outside!  But before I could start the rice I had to make dashi.  You see the recipe required a dashi be made that was then turned into a “tea” by infusing other ingredients and that resulting liquid was used to cook the rice in.

So back to the dashi.  Dashi is stock used in Japanese cooking.  It is made from kombu, which is dried seaweed, and bonito flakes, which are flakes of dried fermented smoked tuna.  To make it I had to take some kombu and soak it in water for 20 minutes.


After 20 minutes I turned on burner to medium high.  When the liquid was about to boil I turned the heat down to low to simmer for 5 minutes.


I removed the pan from heat and removed the kombu.  I then stirred in bonito flakes.

these are bonito flakes
these are bonito flakes

I covered the pot and let the bonito flakes sit in the water for 10 minutes.


After 10 minutes I strained the bonito flakes, making sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.


And I was left with dashi!


Onto the “tea.”  I put tea in quotes because this is not the Earl Grey that my friend Jamie would order at Kildare House.  I think the term tea was used to describe the infusing of flavor happening to the dashi.  In this case the recipe called it a Shrimp and Prosciutto Tea.  To make, I took prosciutto and laid it out in a large cooking dish.


I then poured some of the dashi (which I had brought to a simmer) over the prosciutto and covered with plastic wrap to infuse for 1 hour.


I then mixed in dried shrimp, bay leaves, peppercorns (which had been toasted), dried chile and lemon zest.  I heated more dashi to a simmer and poured it into the dish.


It was re-covered in plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.  Then it was strained, squeezing out as much liquid as possible.


And now I had “tea”

don't drink it!
don’t drink it!

Another element to the recipe was to brine some squid.  To do so I took raw squid and had Matt (my master squid prepper…remember back to when he prepped a bunch of squid while being in our pool last year) clean the squid and separate the tubes from legs.

after - thanks Matt!
after – thanks Matt!

I placed the squid in water, salt and ice and refrigerated for 2 hours.


I then drained, dried with paper towel and laid the squid out on a baking sheet covered with paper towel.  I placed the baking sheet in the refrigerator until I needed it later.

all brined!

Can you see why I titled this post “It’s Complicate”??  I then took my cast iron dutch oven, placed on the stove over medium heat and added some olive oil.  Once hot I added 2 inch pieces of sausage.

this picture really grosses me out.
this picture really grosses me out.

The sausage cooked for about 10 minutes until all sides were starting to brown but the meat itself was not cooked all the way through.  The sausage was removed and set aside.

this picture all really grosses me out.
this picture also really grosses me out.

I then added more oil to the dutch oven and stirred in finely diced onion, fennel and garlic.  The veggies sauted in the oil and sausage drippings for 15 minutes.


While the veggies cooked I took whole roma tomatoes from a can and grated them using a box grater.


Here’s the result, which I set aside for a few minutes until I needed it.

I really like something about this photo. Which is strange because I hate tomato!
I really like something about this photo. Which is strange because I hate tomato!

After 15 minutes I salted the veggies and added hot pepper flakes, hot paprika and fresh oregano to the dutch oven.  That cooked for 3 minutes and then I stirred in the grated tomato.


I cooked for 5 minutes and then added the rice to the dutch oven and cooked for a minute.


I then added the half cooked sausage and most of the prosciutto shrimp dashi tea.


I raised the heat to medium high and brought it to a simmer.  Then it was placed in a preheated oven…which was suppose to be set at 375 degrees but dummy me only set at 325 degrees.  The dish was suppose to cook for 40 minutes, turning half way through, but since after 40 minutes I realized my oven wasn’t at the right temperature I cooked longer, until the rice was tender.  Once tender I submerged the squid into the rice and put back into the oven for a final 5 minutes.


Now I was suppose to stir in parsley, lemon zest and fennel shavings but I forgot everything but the parsley…even though I had all the ingredients pre prepped – I think I was mad at myself for setting the oven at the wrong temp.


The Verdict:  This was my first experience cooking/eating black rice.  I am not sure what I really thought about it.  It was a bit more firm than white rice and it has a bit nuttier taste.  I really liked the flavor the “tea” gave to the dish.  What I did not like was how the black rice stained EVERYTHING.  My dutch oven ended up being crazy stained.  Also our teeth/tongues were stained.  Being black, and dyeing everything black it wasn’t the most appetizing looking.  While making this recipe I happened to find a page in this cookbook with a picture of this dish, and it ended up looking exactly like mine…which resembled dirt.  I think Matt said it best that he would have enjoyed eating it a lot more if he wasn’t looking at.  But we had a great night eating outside with friends, bring on the summer!





2 thoughts on “It’s Complicated!

  1. Wow. This is really weird looking. And looked like a lot of work. Nice experiment.

    My white dutch oven is stained ruined from tomato sauces, curries and cajun seasoning.

    1. Try cleaning your dutch oven by adding a bit of water with baking soda and stir to make a paste. Rub that on the stain, leave it overnight covered and wash the next day. Mine took two cleanings this way but now looks almost new!

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