Saturday, August 20, 2011

Perfect Paella

    Well summer is nearly over, SIGH. This makes me so sad. It seems like it has just begun. Most of my summer vacation was spent in Newfoundland, which don't get me wrong, I totally enjoyed....but all it did was rain. So much so that I ended up coming down with pneumonia. Jeeze.
    Well now that I am finally back in the land of the sun, and my husband has returned home after being gone for three months, we've been trying to cram a summer full of missed activities, into the last three weeks of summer vacation.
    Since returning home, we've been taking it easy. We made a trip to the zoo, a trip to the beach, we went camping with friends, did some back to school shopping, and had a couple of our close friends over for the night to visit.
    While our friends were visiting, I thought it would be nice to try something new for Supper. Paella had been on my brain for quite some time, but it is quite a large dish to make for two people (let alone just for myself), so I had been putting it off. This was the perfect opportunity to give it a whirl.
    I don't often try making a recipe for the first time during a dinner party, but I knew that our friends wouldn't have a problem with being my Guinea Pigs. When we get together, we often spend time trying out new recipes and cuisines.
    I have had Paella on a number of different occasions and really enjoyed it, but have never made it myself. Typically it is made with an assortment of seafood, but to my dismay, my hubby doesn't like many of what he calls "seabugs". This saddens me. So when deciding what approach I wanted to take with the Paella, this was a major factor. In order to make a hubby friendly dinner, I settled on a Chicken, Shrimp and Chorizo Paella.

Chicken, Shrimp and Chorizo Paella:


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces and marinated in spice mixture (see below)
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Spanish chorizo sausages, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 red onion, diced
2 ripe tomatoes peeled, seeded and finely chopped OR 1 can 14 ounce whole tomatoes crushed by hand
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, julienned
2 cups Spanish short grained rice (Arroz Cebolla)
1 generous pinch saffron threads
4 1/2 cups warm homemade chicken stock or water
1 pound jumbo shrimp
1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
Lemon wedges

All the fixin's
Spice Rub for Chicken:


1 tbsp. sweet spanish paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1) Combine ingredients in a small bowl.
2) Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken.
3) Marinate for 1 hour, covered.


(1) Marinate the chicken for 1 hour and remove from refrigerator.

2) Heat the oil in a paella pan or wide skillet.
3) Brown the chicken on all sides, when it's nearly cooked through, add the chorizo links and brown.

Browning the chicken

Add the chorizo.

4) Remove the chicken and sausage from the pan. Keep the remaining oil and caramelized bits in the bottom of the pan.
5) Sauté the garlic and onion until just caramelized.
6) Add the bell peppers. Cook just to soften them and to meld the flavors. Season with salt and pepper.

(7) Add the rice, stirring to coat the grains until lightly toasted. Then add the tomatoes.

Add the rice, and stir to toast
the grains for a minute or two.

8) Add the stock and saffron and give it a stir. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks and absorbs evenly. Do not cover with a lid or constantly stir like risotto. Just shake the pan to move everything around.

If you are unfamiliar with the floral flavor of
saffron, I suggest going easy on the amount
you add. It can be a little intense, and if you
don't end up liking it, you will ruin your dish.

9) Once the rice begins to absorb the liquid, add the shrimp. Cook until the underside begins to turn pink.

10) Return the chicken and chorizo back to the pan. Simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, about 10 minutes.
11) Scatter the peas on top and continue to cook until the liquid is absorbed. Allow to rest off the heat for 5 minutes before serving.

12) Garnish with lemon wedges.

* When cooking Paella, it is important not to stir. But equally important to cook it long enough to create a golden brown crust on the bottom. This is called the socarrat and is important in achieving the key flavor. After doing so, let the Paella set for five or so minutes.

Unfamiliar Tools and Ingredients:

Paella Pan:
The pan is circular and shallow, and has two round handles on
opposite sides. It is traditionally made with cast iron, but is more
commonly found in stainless steel. I found my pan in the gourmet
food section at Winners.
Spanish Rice/ Arroz Cebolla:

This is a medium grain rice that's perfectly suited to making paella.Although it is very similar to Arborio rice (which is commonly used for
Risotto), it has less starch content and is actually harder in texture. If you
are unable to find Spanish Rice, Arborio will make a suitable substitute.

Saffron's flavor and aroma are described as being very floral. Which would make sense considering
it is nothing more than the stamen, which has been very carefully harvested from the Saffron Crocus
Flower. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange colouring tofoods. It is widely used in ethnic
cuisines such as Milanese Risotto in Italy, Bouillabaisse in France, in Biryani along with various meats in
India, and Paella in Spain. Because of the labour intensive harvesting process associated with
Saffron it is quite expensive to buy. Safflower and Turmeric make great substitutes.

Chorizo Sausage:
Spanish Chorizo is a pork sausage that has been given it's smokiness and deep
red color from dried smoked red peppers otherwise known as paprika.
It is usually encased in natural casings made from pig intestines, using a traditional
method that has been used since Roman times. The sausages are flavored
using white wine, a generous amount of garlic and herbs, and pork fat.
Chorizo is easily found in local grocery stores, due to recent popularity. But
if you're making a Spanish dish, be sure you buy the Spanish Chorizo
and not it's Mexican counterpart.

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