For a vibrant Spanish rice dish, we steam the clams in wine and stir them into the rice at the end to avoid overcooking them.
Spanish-Style Brothy Rice with Clams and Salsa Verde
SERVES 4 to 6
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS This traditional rice dish from Spain’s Mediterranean coast combines the briny sweetness of clams and their liquor with the verdant flavors of leeks, green peppers, and parsley. Unlike paella-style rice dishes, in which the rice absorbs most or all of the cooking liquid, brothy rice has a higher proportion of liquid to rice, so that the finished rice remains surrounded by flavorful liquid. Customarily, when making Spanish brothy rice, all of the liquid is added at once and the rice is simmered for a set amount of time. But using this method tended to yield rice that was starchy and often mushy. To maintain a pleasant chew, we borrowed a technique used for Italian risotto, in which the broth is incorporated little by little and stirred frequently to encourage the rice to release starch and thicken the liquid. We found that the key to achieving the best-tasting dish was to coax as much flavor as possible from each of its simple ingredients. We started by opening our clams in wine and using the cooking liquid to build a deeply flavorful broth. We then set the clams aside so they wouldn’t overcook and built an aromatic base using leek, green pepper, and garlic. To emphasize these vegetal flavors and the acidic notes of the wine, we finished the dish with a white wine–vinegar enhanced salsa verde. Bomba rice is the most traditional rice for this dish, but you can use any variety of Valencia rice. If you cannot find Valencia rice, you can substitute Arborio rice.
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 cups dry white wine
2 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
5 cups water
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, chopped fine, and washed thoroughly
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine
Salt and pepper
1½ cups Bomba rice
1. Combine 3 tablespoons oil, parsley, half of garlic, and vinegar in bowl; set aside. Bring wine to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Add clams, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until clams open, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Using slotted spoon, transfer clams to large bowl and cover to keep warm; discard any clams that refuse to open. Stir water and clam juice into wine and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and keep warm.
3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add leek, bell pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add rice and remaining garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until grain edges begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
4. Add 2 cups warm broth and cook, stirring frequently, until almost fully absorbed, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook rice, stirring frequently and adding warm broth, 1 cup at a time, every few minutes as liquid is absorbed, until rice is creamy and cooked through but still somewhat firm in center, 12 to 14 minutes.
5. Off heat, stir in 1 cup warm broth and adjust consistency with extra broth as needed (rice mixture should have thin but creamy consistency; you may have broth left over). Stir in parsley mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Nestle clams into rice along with any accumulated juices, cover, and let sit until heated through, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.