Monday, August 03, 2009

Paella for our neighbors

Is there anything better than one pot meals that feed a family or two ... or ten! Our lovely upstairs neighbors from Buenos Aires were in town and we finished off a fabulous week of fun meals and fun times with one of Fernando and Paula's favorite meals - seafood and chicken paella. So easy and always so fun and delicious. I am loving our new range as the long central burner allows me to do the whole dish on the range as opposed to finishing in an oven which I had to do in the past. Plus, only with a long gas burner can you get a really good socarrat which is frankly my favorite part of the whole dish. When I made this for them a few years back on one of their annuals trip to Los Angeles, Fernando said the paella tasted like his grandmother's. That comment was enough for me to want to make it for him every time they come to town!

This last photo is to share one of our new favorite toys ... an umbrella light. It falls into the "Why didn't I think of that!" category!

Paella (basic recipe; change as you wish)

Use a paella pan. Sur la Table carries good ones and they’re inexpensive.

Saute a diced onion or two in some olive oil.
Add some diced bell peppers (2-3 depending on size)
Add some chopped tomatoes (canned is fine) – tomatoes are optional, if you don’t want to add or don’t have, don’t fret
Add some garlic if you want, if you don’t, no worries.

Add a decent sized pinch of good Spanish saffron. TJ’s saffron is cheap but doesn’t have much flavor. I’d splurge on good stuff.

Add 2 cups paella rice to pan (not Arborio) and toast/sauté for maybe a minute or two (this feeds 4-6; adjust as necessary).

Add 4 cups chicken broth, when heated, reduce to low and simmer. Once you put broth in, don’t mix/touch the rice. Taste for salt/pepper.

Add some browned chicken to the pan and tuck into the rice. I usually cut up one whole chicken and brown it in some olive oil earlier in the day. I also usually take the wings and back to make my stock for the paella … but obviously only do if you’ve got the time and the inclination.

Add some sliced Spanish chorizo to the pan (Spanish, not Mexican … Spanish is not as spicy while Mexican chorizo can be pretty spicy … unless of course you want your dish spicy). Also, I use the imported, packaged version (usually vacuum packed). If you buy fresh, obviously, cook it before slicing and adding to pan.

With about 10 minutes left in your rice, add some jumbo shrimp (the bigger the more dramatic and delicious). I also like adding small manilla clams. If you want to use mussels, great, I usually just stick with chicken, shrimp and clams.

When your rice is done, turn the heat up on the gas to cook/almost burn the bottom of the pan. This part is the socarrat and it is delicious as the rice gets toasted and then a little burned. Some love it, others don’t. You’ll smell when it’s ready as you’ll smell a little burning … I don’t know, maybe 5 minutes.

Turn heat off and cover pan with some parchment paper or a moist towel. Let sit/stand for 10 minutes or more. I normally gather the table when it’s done and serve/eat the first course so that the paella sits/rests while we’re eating salad.

Serve with lemon slices.