Friends, I’m happy to report that I’m making terrific progress on my kitchen resolutions. Last weekend I assisted in the preparation of a classic paella recipe under the direction of Michael’s best friend Ed. I consider Ed an authority on the topic of paella given that he has both been to Spain and owns a paella pan.
Paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish named for the two-handled shallow pan, or a paellera, in which it is typically cooked. Making paella is bit of a production – it’s not a quick-throw-together weeknight dinner. Ed handled the groceries which involved approximately three different markets and some online shopping. I began chopping onions at 2:30pm and we ate about five hours later. It was well worth the effort, though. The list of ingredients is long, but it’s all simple to prep. You’ll want a short-grain variety of rice for this dish – the shape makes it optimal for absorbing large amounts of liquid (and flavor) without becoming mushy. We incorporated chorizo, chicken and mussels, but you can combine other ingredients like rabbit, shrimp or even lobster. I found quite a few recipes that included green beans, red bell peppers and snails, as well.
It was an absolutely gorgeous Summer day so we cooked the paella outside on a 22-inch charcoal Weber grill. You’ll need a smoking hot grill. Use a full chimney to start and keep a chimney of extra coals burning as you’ll need additional heat during the grilling process. We used three full chimneys from beginning to end. The added benefit of cooking on a super hot grill is the formation of the soccarat or the deliciously crisp, burnt crust that develops at the bottom of the pan as the rice caramelizes.
This is a beautiful and completely satisfying meal so all you really need is a bunch of hungry friends and a pitcher of cold sangria as an accompaniment. I baked a chocolate tart for dessert and added a pinch of cinnamon for a kick.
If available, pull the scallions, peas and parsley from your garden.
Backyard Paella (Paella a la Valenciana)
Adapted from The Foods & Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp saffron
1 small onion, peeled
2 1/2 lbs cured-Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 1/2 lbs chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 jars pimentos
1 tbsp hot smoked paprika
3 cups short-grain rice
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 fresh peas
4 scallions, chopped
18 mussels, scrubbed
Chopped parsley and lemon wedges for garnish
Heat the broth with the saffron, bay leaves and the small peeled onion. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove the onion and bay leaves and measure the broth – you’ll need 5 1/2 cups.
In a large metal paella pan, heat the oil.
Add the chorizo and cook for about 10 minutes until a deep color develops. Remove chorizo from the pan, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Pat the chicken dry and season with salt. Add chicken to the pan and cook until golden. Remove chicken from pan and set aside with chorizo.
Add the diced onion, garlic, crushed tomatoes, pimentos and paprika. Saute until onion is sweating.
Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat with oil and aromatics. Add the heated broth and wine. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally about 7 minutes or until the rice is no longer soupy, but some liquid remains.
Add the peas and scallions.
Push the mussels into the rice along the edge of the pan with the edge that will open facing up.
Return the chorizo and chicken to the center of the pan and press the meat into the rice. Continue to cook for approximately 20 minutes.
Rice should be tender and al dente. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.