Friday, June 1, 2007

Always Perfect Paella

Remember: never be afraid to play with your food, be creative and change the ingredients. If you come up with a winning combination, don't forget to share!


2-3 lbs chicken parts (thighs, legs)
1 Spanish chorizo sausage
.5 pound jumbo shrimp
12 mussels, washed and debearded
6-8 squid (calamari), cleaned and sliced into rings

1 head of garlic cloves crushed and minced
1 medium diced onion
2 ripe large tomatoes (beefsteak or heirloom are excellent-substitute 1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes drained and crushed)
1/2 cup sweet peas, shelled fresh if you can but frozen and thawed work just fine
.5 pepper sliced in ribbons
**1 small mild/hot pepper (extra spice, not necessary)
2 cups Arborio rice, or any short to medium grain

1 teaspoon saffron threads

6 cups warm chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon dried oregano/ 2 teaspoons fresh
1 teaspoon dried thyme/ 2 teaspoons fresh
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons sweet paprika

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Fresh chopped parsley leaves & lemon wedges for serving

Rinse chicken pieces and pat them dry. Mix oregano, thyme, cumin and paprika with some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the pieces of chicken and let sit for at least 1/2 hour to marinate.

Mise en place (literally: everything in it's place; make sure to always have your ingredients washed, chopped, minced, etc... before you begin) onions, garlic, tomato, peppers, peas, etc...

Heat the olive oil in a paella pan or any wide shallow pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the pan, skin-side down and brown on all sides, turning with tongs. Add chorizo and cook until the oil is a vibrant red color. Remove the chicken and sausage to a platter lined with paper towels.

Return pan to the stove with 'red oil' and lower the heat to medium. Make a sofrito by sauteing the garlic, onion, and tomatoes; cook until the mixture is soft and well combined. About 5-7 minutes. You are looking for carmelization, not crispiness! Season with salt and pepper.

Fold in the rice, stirring to coat the grains. When the rice is coated add the saffron and mix well. Then pour in the stock and simmer on medium for 10 minutes. The idea is to make sure the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid WITHOUT over stirring the rice.

(Note: Traditional paella has a toasted rice bottom called socarrat that is heavenly if made properly, i.e. Don't over stir or heat over too high heat!)

Add the shrimp, mussels, squid, the reserved chicken and chorizo. Give the paella a couple of good stirs and tuck in all the pieces and just let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, about 15 minutes.

Scatter the peas on top and continue to cook for 5 minutes, until the paella looks fluffy and moist.

Allow to rest, off the heat for 5 minutes, and garnish with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges

*This looks complicated but it's really not, you can do it...I promise!

Also, You could easily substitute lobster tails, clams, scallops, flounder, or any dense fish/poultry/meat for any of the ingredients.

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