Spanish-style Brown Rice and Chard

Spanish-style chard and brown rice in a wok ready to serve

I’ve been on a mission to get more brown rice into my family. 

I try to hide it behind great flavor and color.  It’s not that they don’t like the texture, but Americans are so used to white rice that they often consider brown rice “not as good” and look at you like you have five heads when you present it to them.

Both my husband and son have great diets.  They eat a wide variety of things and avoid food that’s not really food – like trans fat and all that processed stuff.  The main problem I have involves rice and bread.  When left to their own defences, they choose white rice and white bread.

Myself – I love brown rice.  Especially Jasmine, which is fragrant and delicate.  It works well in dishes where it gets beaten up, like in a stir-fry, because it holds its shape, and it comes out separate and fluffy.  It’s also fairly easy to disguise, if you have to resort to this tactic.

This recipe is, loosely, a Spanish incarnation of Greek spinach rice, which I love, but which doesn’t work as well with brown rice because of the cooking time.  By the time the rice is done, the spinach is a shadow of its former self.  By replacing the delicate spinach with hale and hearty chard, that problem goes away.

Another crops up, though:  the bitterness of the chard.

By switching to a Spanish-inspired version with bacon, the bitterness issue is remedied, too.

You can buy beautiful chard in the East Bay at Berkeley Bowl (two locations) and Monterey Market (1550 Hopkins Street) – and many other stores and farmers’ markets.  High-end supermarkets often have smoked paprika, and I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s.  If you stop by The Spanish Table in Berkeley (1814 San Pablo Avenue), they have qute a selection.

Jasmine brown rice can be found at most Asian markets.  I usually get it at 99 Ranch Market in Richmond – 3288 Pierce Street.

This is one dish where a non-stick wok works well.  I use my Wolfgang Puck electric wok for this – I kid you not.  If you have a surface that tends to stick badly and where prying off caramelization is a non-starter, take care with the last step of the recipe.

 Spanish-style Brown Rice with Chard
   Serves 3 as a main dish, 6 as a side, depending upon appetites!

4 ounces bacon, cut into medium-small pieces
1/2 large yellow onion, small dice
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped shallot
2 cups Jasmine brown rice
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Salt – dependent upon saltiness of stock used
4 cups chicken stock
1 pound of Swiss chard, leaves cut into fairly large pieces (If your store carries rainbow chard, which Berkeley Bowl does, get this; it’s a mix of colors.  To get it really clean, wash in a sink full of cold water.)

1).  Saute bacon until just under crispy.
2).  Add onion and saute until golden.
3).  Add garlic, shallot and rice and stir-fry for a minute or two.
4).  Add smoked paprika, pepper and salt and make sure all is combined well with the rice.
5).  Saute this mixture for a minute or two.
6).  Add chicken stock and stir well; bring to a boil.
7).  Add chard to the top – do not mix in – and cover.
8).  Simmer for 5 or 6 minutes or until the chard has wilted down enough for you to mix it in to the rice somewhat.
9).  Continue to simmer, covered, stirring in the chard as it continues to shrink down.
10).  When chard is evenly distributed, cook for about 20 minutes, covered, without stirring.
11).  When liquid is absorbed into the rice completely, it should be done.  If not, add a little more stock or water and continue cooking until done.
12).  Allow rice to cook, covered, for an additional few minutes on medium-high heat so that you create a little caramelization on the bottom.  Do not stir, but do not allow to burn!
13).  With a spatula, mix well, pulling up the caramelized rice (this will have stuck to the pan) and distributing it throughout.

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