Executive Chef John McConnell
Clif Family Winery
St. Helena, Calif.
In this creative take on Cuban arroz con frijoles, chef McConnell cooks up whole almonds to resemble the beans, then spikes the dish with sofrito—the traditional sauteed base of garlic, onion and bell peppers. Basmati rice flavored with almond oil makes up the arroz component, and a classic citrusy mojo sauce adds the finishing touch.
1 qt. whole, unroasted, blanched almonds
2 qt. filtered water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup minced garlic
1 med. onion, finely chopped
1 each yellow and red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp. cumin powder
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 qt. toasted and soaked almonds (reserve soaking water)
1 qt. vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. salt
2 green plantains, peeled and sliced
Vegetable oil for frying
1 bunch coarsely chopped cilantro, for garnish
1 qt. basmati or long grain rice
2 qt. almond soaking water
1 tbsp. almond oil
1 tbsp. salt
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chili, minced with seeds
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup almond oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. fresh chopped oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1. For almond beans: The day before cooking, toast 1 quart blanched, raw almonds at 350 F for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Once cool, transfer almonds to container. Add 2 quarts filtered water to container and allow almonds to soak overnight.
2. Prepare almond beans in sofrito: In braising pan or ovenproof pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic; saute until golden brown.
3. Stir in onion and peppers; cook until soft and tender. Add cumin to release fragrance; stir in tomato paste. Saute until tomato paste is incorporated into sofrito.
4. Add soaked almonds to pot; saute 1 to 2 minutes. Add stock, bay leaves and salt; bring to a boil. Cover pot and reduce to simmer.
5. Transfer pot to 350 F oven. Cook 5 to 6 hours until almond beans are soft and tender. Remove from heat, keeping pot covered.
6. Meanwhile, prepare plantains: Peel skins and cut plantains lengthwise to split into two halves. Using mandolin, slice plantains lengthwise 1/8-inch thick to form long strips. Soak strips in cold water to remove excess starch.
7. Remove plantains from water, drain and season lightly with salt; set aside. Heat vegetable oil in deep fryer to 325 F. Fry plantain strips, 3 to 5 pieces at a time, until golden brown; drain on stack of paper towels to absorb excess oil. Season immediately with salt. Hold aside until rice is ready to serve.
8. Prepare rice: In large saucepan, combine rice, reserved almond soaking water (and any additional water if needed), salt and almond oil. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook 13 minutes. Once water has been absorbed, fluff rice and keep covered off heat.
9. Prepare mojo sauce: In bowl, combine all ingredients and stir to mix; set aside.
To serve, scoop rice onto large platter and top with almond beans in sofrito and enough cooking liquid to moisten. Garnish with chopped cilantro and accompany with plantain chips and mojo sauce.
Photo courtesy of The Almond Board