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Arroz Preto

January 29, 2010

For the last two weeks of my stage I was transferred from the prep kitchen to the main kitchen at D.O.M.. I now work with the two tasting menu chefs, Mariana Gilbertoni and Thiago Bañares. They are responsible for executing the very intricate dishes that can be served as four or eight course meals.

One of the dishes we serve as part of a tasting menu was Toasted Black Rice with Green Vegetables and Brazil Nut Milk. I was already familiar with the black rice (aka Forbidden Rice) from readings about China. The legend of the Forbidden Rice goes that for every acre of rice fields harvested, ten grains or so would be dark. These grains were reserved and served to the Emperor alone, hence the name Forbidden Rice. That was about four thousand years ago. Move forward to 1994 in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, and we find  a group of researchers from the Agronomic Institute of Campinas who were looking for a way to produce specialty grains to target the international gourmet market. Their research focused on a strain of black-pellicled rice called IAC-600 (Oryza sativa). This particular strain belonged to the Wang Xue Ren variety, and it turned out to be a very successful strain in adapting to the São Paulo climate. The grain also yielded great results in culinary tests where chefs were pleased with its nutty flavor  and versatility. Nutritional analysis showed that the grain (which is consumed whole) is rich in carbohydrates, oils, protein, phenolic compounds, fiber, cobalt, vitamins: A, B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, nicotinic acid, pantothenic acid, pro-vitamins C and E. One of the farmers who is greatly responsible for the popularity of this ingredient with fine dining chefs in São Paulo is José Francisco Ruzene, also known as Chicão Ruzene. Chicão took a bet on the gourmet possibilities of this product and saw it as a way to save his family farm, which in the 1990’s was under threat of being eliminated by the competition with the rice giants in Brazil. His bet was successful and now many Brazilian chefs, including Alex Atala, swear by his product. Mr. Ruzene’s company now has grown its line of gourmet rice to include a red rice variety.

The dish we prepare at D.O.M. is actually quite simple: the black rice is boiled in vegetable stock until al dente, then strained and reserved. The green vegetables are all cut to bite size pieces. The garnish is made with celery and green onions. To plate, we sauté the rice in a very hot pan until it starts to toast. The vegetables are also quickly sauteed. The garnish is carefully put on top. The rice is served with a side cup of Brazil Nut milk (not pictured), which the guest pours over the rice at the last minute.

Toasted Black Rice with Green Vegetables

The most labor intensive part of this dish is cutting the garnishes, but with careful knife skills they are not hard to accomplish. The celery is washed and sliced lengthwise in very thin slices (you must use a mandolin for this). Then each slice is carefully trimmed on the edges and scored several times on a bias. The garnish is immersed in ice water. The ice water causes it to curl into its final shape. I do not have pictures of the steps to make the green onion garnish but the procedure is similar. It consists of cutting the green part on the onion into segments of about two inches in length. By making an incision, you open the onion flat. The important part is to not rub it too much, the inside of the onion must still contain its natural moisture (which covers the leaf in a sort of goo like substance) – without it the leaf won’t curl. Next you slice thin strips off the leave and immerse them in ice cold water which will cause them to curl into a spiral.

Cut thin slice with a mandolin

Trim the edge off each slice

Score it on a bias

Immerse in ice water

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Chef Atala also has a recipe for a black rice risotto with catupiry which is featured in his book Escoffianas Brasilieiras. In my translation below I have loosely adapted the measurements to U.S. standard.

Risoto de Arroz Preto com Catupiry e Manteiga de Garrafa

  • 2 tablespoons Manteiga de Garrafa (may substitute with clarified butter)
  • 2 tablespoons minced Onion
  • 1/2 lb. Black Rice
  • 4 oz Dry White Wine
  • 3.5 cups Vegetable Stock
  • 4 oz Catupiry (I recommend using Catupiry but if that is not possible, use any other type of soft-creamy cheese)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method: Lightly heat the butter and sweat the onions. Add the black rice and saute for three minutes. Add the wine and let it evaporate. Preheat the vegetable stock. Add a small amount to the rice and in low heat cook until it evaporates while constantly stirring. Gradually add more vegetable stock, repeating the process until the rice is al dente. Finish with the cheese and season.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rose permalink
    September 16, 2010 1:02 am

    Thank you so much for this valuable information. Very useful indeed. . . . .

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  1. An eleven course dinner at D.O.M. « ..:seeking sustenance:..

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