August 19, 2010

Paella (and the best-laid plans)

I had the best plans laid out this summer. I told myself that once my children are on summer break, I will devote some time on this little blog of mine. "One post a week, at least" was what I said. But then work called, a 2-week gig wasn't bad but next thing I knew it kept getting extended: 16-hour days, staying until past midnight at Disneyland (without my family, it was not enjoyable at all), driving all over the city had kept me away from my kitchen. Work is done for now and I am still feeling it's effects; these couple of weeks I have just been catching up on sleep and hanging out with my boys. And I'm very glad to be cooking again in my own kitchen.

One more thing about best-laid plans. I cooked paella for the first time last week. Months ago, my husband mentioned he had only eaten paella at restaurants and had an idea to cook it at home. My husband, a kitchen gadget-freak, (which I am grateful for) wanted to get the right equipments for cooking paella so first thing we searched for was a paella pan. Williams-Sonoma only sold copper pans which are beautiful but was way beyond our budget. Sur La Table and had traditional steel pans which costs about $30 but after diligent search we found the same pan at Cost Plus World Market for half the price! Unsure why another several weeks would pass before we bought the paella rice but then both the pan and rice stayed in the kitchen for awhile. Circumstances like my summer job and husband's month-long detox cleanse delayed cooking paella even further.

So last week at the dinner table, the kids finally decided to "just cook paella already!" To celebrate the end of my job and their dad losing 20 pounds, the kids said (Ha, and I'm sure they just heard a little too much discussion and planning about this dish.) So over the weekend, we drove all over searching for Spanish chorizo and made sure to get the freshest seafood. The seafood market didn't have fresh mussels but we didn't want another reason to delay our cooking so we compensated by buying extra prawns. My husband also bought a dungeness crab but decided to cook this separately. We even bought Spanish saffron even though we had 4 grams of Iranian saffron in our pantry (Do you know if there is a difference in taste between the two?)

Growing up in the Philippines, my family had always cooked paella. It was not as authentic as they do in Spain for we used sticky rice and safflower (instead of saffron) and my lola (grandma) and aunts just cooked paella in a wok! Another vivid memory was the paella was always cooked over a wood-burning stove. So I attempt to replicate my family's version of paella using the BBQ.

serves 6-8 people

1/2 tsp saffron
3 cups chicken broth
2 TBSP olive oil
chicken: 2 wings, cut at joints & 2 thighs, deboned & cut into thirds
Spanish chorizo, cut 1/2 thick in a bias
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 med onion, finely minced
4-5 garlic cloves, finely minced
5-6 plum tomatoes, seeded & finely chopped
1 TBSP paprika
1 bay leaf
2 cups paella rice
prawns, 8-16 pieces
clams 12-20 pieces
3/4 cup peas, thawed if frozen

Crush saffron in mortar & pestle, add to chicken broth and set aside.

Heat pan over medium high heat and brown chicken, 2-4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the chorizo and brown on all side. Remove and place together with chicken.

Add the red bell pepper to soften a little, do not brown. Remove and put along the chicken & chorizo. Drain some of the oil until 2 TBSP of oil is left.

Add onions until soft, about 2 minutes, add garlic and cook until fragrant.

Place tomatoes and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in paprika and bay leaf.

Add rice and stir until rice is completely covered by tomato mixture,about a minute. Add broth and bring to a boil.

Return chicken back in pan. Reduce heat to medium (I just scattered the charcoal around) and let it simmer until most liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Test the rice for doneness (if still hard, cover pan with tin foil for few minutes). Once rice is done, place prawns, clams and return the chorizo and bell peppers. Sprinkle the peas. Dish is done when clam shells open and prawns turn pink. Take off the heat and cover again in foil. Let it stand a few minutes. Serve.

I was very pleased with the results being this my first try. I liked that I used the BBQ grill since I was worried about the paella not cooking evenly if I would have used the stove top. Though I felt a little rush in the beginning (the chicken could be browned more), I think it was the nerves and excitement of cooking it plus having an audience (my husband and our boys) watching my every move got to me a little. Thank you to my husband for taking the action shots and my boys who arranged the prawns and clams so beautifully. I am excited to cook paella again soon.

So in the end things don't always turn out the way we plan. And even though this summer is almost gone, my family and I would remember this as the summer we made paella.


cusinera said...

Ooooh....very nice:) I haven't tried paella yet...still looking for a paella pan, thanks for a lovely recipe:)

Jun Belen said...

WOW! We both made paella almost the same time! But unlike you, it took me four times before finally getting it right. Cooking paella using a 15-inch pan over a stove-top burner was the most challenging part - making sure that the seafood is not overcooked and the rice is not undercooked. But after 4 tries it all turned out perfect. Congratulations to your husband for losing 20 pounds. That's a great accomplishment!

Jean said...

Congrats on a successful paella attempt. It's beautiful! I have to say there's been a wave of paella posts lately so you've all got me craving a big mouthful of soccarat!

PS. Glad I was able to post this comment! :-)

Tangled Noodle said...

Wow! Paella is one of those dishes that I love but am too intimidated to try. My mother makes a wonderful version and she has promised to give me her pan someday. Of course, I hope she'll also pass along the cooking skills to go with it . . . 8-D


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