Ideas for dinner tonight. Household and kitchen tips, recipes, tweaks. What's worked great, and not so great.
On a recent trip to Spain, I bought something I’ve always wanted. A genuine Paella pan! A carbon steel pan. They come in a gazillion sizes and it was tough trying to figure out how large I could go without having to purchase an outdoor burner and tripod for it. I wanted to either use my stovetop or grill. I’ve since learned, the grill is the more traditional way. I bought a 16″ carbon steel pan. Good thing I COULD use my grill, because as traditional paella pans go, they do not have a flat bottom. I have a glass stove top, and if I use this on my stove top, my paella won’t work properly. I’d have to have purchased a flat bottom pan. (Didn’t even KNOW about this at the time.)
My tennis team just finished our spring season, and we planned a little pot luck party at my house. I was excited to try out my new pan, so Paella it is! My line of thought about trying something new with friends, is … so what if it doesn’t work. Domino’s is just a phone call away. I love to try new things, and who better to try them out on than friends and family? I have made paella before, but never in an authentic pan. Every time you make a paella, it will probably be different. There are as many recipes as are people making it. Traditionally, calamari is used in the seafood, or mixed paella, but I’m not a fan, so I didn’t put it in. It’s fun to put whatever you have, whatever you want, into a paella. Use this, and all of my recipes, as a guide to do what YOU want to do. There are a couple of things that ARE important to the flavor, and consistency though. The number one most important thing in a great paella is the rice. You have to have the right rice. A medium/short grain. The “best” type of rice is called Calasparra. The next is Bomba. Of course, where I live, those options are not available, and I didn’t have time to order on-line. So, the next type, and it works out fine, is Valencia rice. The local Publix has it by the brand Mahatma. It’s a nice short grain rice, but I suppose, doesn’t have as much starchiness as aborio, which is used for risotto. The Valencia stays separate. The next important item in a successful paella is the sofrito. A sofrito is a base for the flavor of the paella. It’s made by sauteing the onion, garlic and parsley, then adding the tomatoes and cooking till the mixture caramelizes a little and becomes rich and flavorful. The final hope for your paella is to have a nice toasty bottom crust, called socarrat.
Again, I’m not one to do much measuring, but with this dish, it’s a great one for eyeballing. Keep in mind I used a 16″ pan. If you don’t have a paella pan, a large frying type pan will work. You don’t want to use a deep pan for a paella. Also, don’t over stuff the pan. It’s better to use two pans than overstuff one. The flavors need room to meld.
Here’s what I used for a Mixta Paella
olive oil Use enough to lightly to medium coat the bottom of the pan
2-3 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast (although it’s really better to use a whole cut up chicken, I used the breast cut up due to the fact we were lap eating and cutting would have been a problem)
2 lbs shrimp (peel the shrimp and save shells for added broth flavor)
1 package chorizo
1 onion, diced
minced garlic (to taste, I used about 2-3 T)
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes, + 1 diced fresh tomato
12 little-neck clams, (get more than you think you’ll need to allow for dead ones)
1 lb mussels (again, get more to allow for dead ones)
1 1/2 c fresh peas (or frozen, thawed)
6-8 c short-med grain rice. (Calasparra, Bombe, Valencia)
2 large pinches saffron
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and sliced
1 lb dense white fish.. I used swordfish
flat leaf parsley, chopped
6-8 c chicken broth. (heat over medium heat with shrimp shells for about 30 minutes, drain shells out prior to using for paella)
Salt & pepper, (I like Kosher salt, or sea salt)
2 T paprika
2 t oregano
Place chicken broth in pot and heat over medium.
Prepare items for the paella and set near you in bowls. Cut chicken in large pieces, scrub clams, mussels, toss dead ones. To see if they are dead, if one is open, gently tap on the counter. If it doesn’t close, throw it away. Peel the shrimp, toss the shells into the chicken broth and heat. If you have a spaghetti pot,( a pot with a colander inside) that makes it simple. Just toss the shells in the colander, heat and lift colander out and discard shells) After you remove the shrimp shells from the broth, add a pinch of saffron to the broth. Remove from heat.
Slice and or dice any veggies you’ll be using.
Mix paprika, oregano, salt and pepper, coat chicken pieces with the spice mix. Set covered in the refrigerator for about an hour, then cook chicken till browned and mostly done. Set aside in bowl.
Cook the chorizo. If you can slice it, have large bite size pieces. If it is the type you have to remove the casing, cook it all and set aside in a bowl.
Heat the grill, or if you are using your stove top, begin heating your pan coated with olive oil.
When the pan gets hot, add the onions, garlic, and a little of the parsley. When the onions become translucent, and garlic is aromatic, add the tomatoes. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and richly colored, kind of like a loose paste. This is the “sofrito”. Add more oil if needed. Evenly spread the rice in the pan, coating the grains with the oil and sofrito. Stir for about 2-3 minutes to evenly heat and coat the rice. Add broth to cover rice. Spread ingredients evenly around the pan. Don’t cover the pan, but if you are using the grill you can close the lid for a few minutes. When liquid is almost absorbed, add the mostly cooked chicken, chorizo, another pinch of saffron and add more liquid if needed. It’s best not to stir, but you may need to a little. Add the peppers, peas and seafood, tucking the mollusks into the rice and add any remaining broth you have, if necessary. Shake pan to distribute. When the clams, mussles open and your rice is al dente, it’s done. Ideally, the bottom of the paella will have a toasty rice bottom, a little crispy. This is called the socarrat, and is why you don’t want to stir. Remove from the grill, let rest a few minutes, garnish with remaining parsley, serve with lemon wedges.
If you’d like a great website for paella, go to http://www.paellapans.com