I can’t believe that this blog is almost two years old and I haven’t yet mentioned paella. It’s not because I’m some sort of paella expert, or even that I cook it all that much, but the thing is, it’s the first recipe I wrote myself a version of. “Adapted” if you will. Before I even knew what a food blog was, or that recipes were “adaptable”. Before I considered myself a decent enough home cook.
I fell in love with this dish many years ago when I studied in Spain during undergrad. I didn’t fall in love with Spain-not yet (ask my parents)-rather, I came down with a serious case of homesickness and barely made it through the program. A few years later, I began taking my students to Spain and then began my, let’s say… crush. Sidenote: that crush, though, led me in fact to my one true love (isn’t that often how it happens?), when my dad and I headed up to Carcassonne afterwards. Then Provence, the Alps, Paris and I was one smitten girl. But my love affair with France is a story for another time. One I mention regularly here. For now, I’m talking about an earlier crush.
My paella is really not all that hard and is a definite crowd-pleaser. It can indeed be spectacular, even. The bulk of the prep can be completed earlier, with the ingredients measured, ready and waiting by the stove top. Before guests arrive, you can get on with sautéing the veg, slowly adding the hot broth and, when it’s almost ready save the last bit of broth to add before serving and turn off the heat. Cover the paella and serve your appetizer. How about the endlessly adaptable Spring Artichoke Dip?
After your guests have devoured, and I do mean devoured, this succulent dip, you can nonchalantly head back to the kitchen for the finishing touches. You’ll be a paella master in no time.
Pan Catalan, easier than garlic bread (and tastier), is a necessary and utterly welcome side. People will think “what did you do?” and you’ll think “not all that much really”.
Paella: Vegetarian or Not
Serves 6-8 (once I served appetizer portions to a party of 20!). Adapted from so many cookbooks that I can’t remember what they all are!
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (optional), large diced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- a handful frozen peas
- 1/2 tsp. saffron
- 1/s tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 packet Paellero seasoning (optional, but you can buy it here)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- pepper to taste
- 1/2 lb. shrimp
- 1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 1 lime, quartered.
1. In a large skillet or paella pan, cook onions in 3 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat until translucent.
2. Bring broth to a simmer on another burner.
3. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
4. Add bell pepper, tomatoes, and rice. Cook for 2 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, crush saffron threads, paprika and coarse salt in a mortar and pestle (or just on a cutting board) until ground. Add a couple of tablespoons of broth to this mixture.
6. Add spice mixture to skillet and slowly add broth, about 1/2 cup at a time over the course of 45 minutes or so. If using, add paellero seasoning at any point during this process. (After about 30 minutes, I stopped this process and covered broth and paella, served my appetizer and mingled with my guests. The last 15 minutes of cooking can be done just before serving.)
7. Once broth is absorbed (if you run out of broth before rice is fully cooked, you can add a little water to paella), add shrimp and cook for a few more minutes or until the shrimp are pink and opaque. Add peas and parsley and stir.
8. Serve in the skillet with Pan Catalan and a wedge of lime.
For the Pan Catalan, slice baguette lengthwise and then into a few pieces. Toast in a 350° oven until browned, about 10 minutes. Rub with half a tomato, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Serve alongside for a crunch accompaniment.