This is one of Defne Koryürek's favorite dishes from chef-owner Semsa Denizsel at Kantin restaurant. The rice is glossy and sticky, and full of tender calamari and mussels. The addition of spices like allspice and cinnamon, plus some currants, gives the dish a slightly sweet edge.
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1 1/2 cups arborio rice (3/4 pound), rinsed
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Large pinch of saffron threads
1 tablespoon dried currants
One 1 1/2-inch cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 pound cleaned squid, bodies sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch rings, large tentacles halved
4 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped dill
How to Make It
In a large bowl, cover the rinsed arborio rice with 2 inches of hot water. Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and stir thoroughly to dissolve. Let the rice soak for 40 minutes, then drain.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil with the garlic halves. Add the mussels, cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan vigorously a few times, until the mussels open, about 4 minutes. Discard any mussel shells that do not open. Transfer the mussels to a medium bowl. Pour the mussel cooking liquid into a heatproof measuring cup and measure out 2 cups; add water if necessary. Remove the mussels from their shells and transfer to a bowl.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the diced onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Crumble in the saffron threads and stir in the dried currants, cinnamon stick and allspice. Add the squid and cook, stirring, until it begins to curl, about 1 minute. Add the soaked and drained rice and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the rice starts to stick together, about 3 minutes. Stir in the mussels, the reserved 2 cups of liquid and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook over moderate heat for 12 minutes. Stir in the chopped scallions.
Cover the mussel-and-squid pilaf with a clean kitchen towel, then cover with the lid and cook over low heat for 10 minutes without peeking. Remove the pilaf from the heat and keep it in a warm place, covered, for 45 minutes. Stir in the dill, discard the cinnamon stick and serve.
The pilaf can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
Though this rich, risotto-like pilaf is chock-a-block with tender mussels and squid, it's much more of a red-wine dish than a white because it's substantial and sweet enough to pair with wine that has a little tannic astringency. Try a medium-bodied red from southern France.
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