More Spain stuff, to start the new year.

We belatedly start 2018 where we left 2017...with Spain on the brain.

This seafood rice dish with vegetables and saffron, which Don Miguel made for us during a trade mission to Spain, was so simple and gloriously delicious.

It's kind of like a soupy risotto -- the name in Spanish, Arroz Caldoso, means "brothy rice" -- but, unlike a risotto, it has neither butter nor cheese, just hyperfresh extra virgin olive oil, which mostly comes in at the end of the recipe as an aromatic and savory addition.

Serves 6 Iberics or 8 normal people

1t to 1T saffron threads, depending on your preference, I went with 1 1/2t.
8 c vegetable and/or seafood stock
2 c valencia-type rice, (you can substitute any risotto-type rice)
2 1/2 c combination:
finely diced carrot
finely diced red bell pepper
finely diced yellow onions
1/2" cuts of asparagus and/or green beans
peas
medium dice zucchini
 Shellfish (shrimp/prawns, squid rings, mussels...while fresh is always best, in this case, frozen and thawed is perfectly fine)
3-6 cloves of garlic, minced as finely as your patience will allow
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of thyme (optional) sea salt

Combine the saffron and 1 cup hot water and steep until the water is bright yellow. Heat the stock in a medium saucepan; warm over low heat. In a large sauté pan, add 1T or so of the oil, and heat over medium heat. Add whatever vegetables you are using, along with a fat pinch of salt and "sweat" them until any liquid they issue is mostly evaporated.

Add the rice and toss to coat with oily vegetable excellentness. Pour the saffron water into the rice, and simmer over medium heat. Cook until the rice has absorbed most of the saffron water, then add about a quarter of the stock and simmer, stirring, until most of the stock's been absorbed. Repeat with another quarter of the stock. Continue to cook, stirring and adding stock each time the previous addition has been absorbed, or until the rice is not quite al dente.

Add the seafood, cover with the lid and simmer, about 5 minutes longer or until the shrimp are pink and/or the mussels are opened. Spoon into deep bowls and sprinkle with the salt, fresh thyme (if you're going that way) and a splash of the oil. MAKE SURE YOU BREATHE IN the aroma of the oil as it's warmed by the hot rice. Devour this with gratitude.

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