Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Paella, Baby

spanishrice I’m still mourning the loss of summer and at the same time, simmering with quiet resentment that my husband just got to spend ten days in northern Spain. I too could have gone if I’d moved heaven and earth to arrange childcare, but opted instead for the easier, stay-at-home cop-out. Nonetheless, the summer continues to persist here in Richmond despite the start of school and despite the sycamore leaves littering the lawns. High humidity and temperatures in the nineties make it hard to think about fall dishes and the changing of the seasons, so I’m still stuck firmly in seafood mode—flip flops and bathing suits optional. And my husband’s trip has only intensified my continuing fixation with the cuisine of Spain. That and the five pounds of homemade chorizo he brought back in his suitcase. Seafood and chorizo, hmm . . . what could I make? Although truly, the possibilities are nearly limitless, the most obvious choice is also my very favorite dish. Paella has a long, rich tradition in both Spain and in my household. It’s my husband’s signature dish and the dish that has given him the reputation of high culinary excellence within his own family. Although my husband rarely cooks—paella and arroz con pollo are about it—he is widely seen as the latest in a long patrilineal line of men who cook (his grandfather was Francisco Franco’s personal chef before the revolution—and before said grandfather went AWOL to sail for America). I don’t really mind; all of the lovely calphalon pans and cookbooks he gets for his birthday and Christmas go straight to me. My husband’s paella really is wonderful, however. The recipe comes straight from his grandmother by way of his mother, and the only modification to it is my insistence upon using real, short grain, Bomba rice from Valencia. The rice is the foundation of this dish, and without the best, paella can never, ever shine the way it was intended. Other than that, I’ve left it alone. Now this is the real, peasant version of the dish—no fancy homemade chicken broth (I’ve tried, with disappointing results) but good, salty bouillon straight from a cube. This is the way it’s made (according to my husband, and he should know, because HE JUST SPENT TEN DAYS IN SPAIN WITHOUT ME) if you go to someone’s house and they pull out the paella pan and the bag of mixed seafood (from a scoop-it-yourself bin marked “Paella Mix”) they picked up at the store in your honor. Like most Spanish recipes, the amounts are guidelines only; feel free to increase or decrease different ingredients according to what you like. Oh! And you might want to add a few peas for a more authentic dish—we never add them because my husband hates peas (and so does his mother).
Pea-less Paella Serves 6-8
2 TB. olive oil 1 red pepper, sliced 1 onion, diced 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 double-sized cubes (like Knorr) chicken bouillon 4 cups hot water 2 very large pinches saffron (lightly toasted in a small pan ahead of time) 2 c. Bomba rice or, if you must, and you promise you looked really hard for the right kind first, Aborio rice 1 lb. real Spanish chorizo (no substitutions; smuggling optional), sliced into 1/2” rounds 6-8 pieces of chicken, skinned, rinsed and patted dry 1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed 1 1/2 dozen mussels, scrubbed 1/2 lb. large shrimp, peeled with tails left on 1-2 lobster tails, split (optional) Sauté the garlic, red pepper, and onion over medium heat in paella pan until soft and fragrant. Add chicken and sauté until golden brown. Dissolve bouillon in hot water; add to pan. Sprinkle with saffron and stir. Add rice and chorizos; bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering with the pan covered in foil. After about 8-10 minutes, the rice should be well on its way to being cooked, but still have a significant amount of liquid with which to steam the seafood. Add seafood (and, if you’re using them, the dreaded peas) and stir it into the rice thoroughly (this is a little trickier than it sounds because your pan is going to be quite full by this time) and re-cover. Cook slowly until all of the liquid is gone, and the rice and seafood are cooked. Serve from your impressive paella pan right at the table and put on the flamenco music. It’s time to celebrate! technorati tags: , , , ,


Anonymous Richard Leader said...

Mmm - sounds great.
I love paella - and I too insist on Valencia rice and a decent stock. I usually add a little white wine too - but maybe that's just me (a glass for the pot, a glass for the cook...)

I think you are right to insist on the rice - getting the right rice for the right dish is essential - Valencia for Paella, arborio for risotto, basmati for pilau, sticky rice for thai curries...

Next time you're cooking, invite me round (except I live near Richmond in the UK, not Richmond Virginia!).
My blog is new and has a long way to go to meet your standards!

September 20, 2005 7:00 AM  
Blogger s'kat said...

My husband hates the peas, too. And next time, he needs to take you to Spain *with* him!

September 21, 2005 2:17 PM  

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