Once in awhile, Life delivers little gifts. My gift from Life was the opportunity to make a reasonably authentic paella! How exciting is that! I have never, ever, ever – in 20 years of looking – seen Spanish Chorizo in Butte County!! Now…I’m sure part of that is that I don’t LIVE in Chico. And part of that is that I don’t always get to the right specialty store on the right day when they just “happen” to have a special order in… But THIS was my day to hit all of those variables AND to be able to score FRESH, LIVE shellfish as well. SCORE!!!!! And my only wish for the weekend was to be able to buy some Fun Food! Oh Happiness!!!
Chorizo, Manchego, and pancetta in hand…not to mention a pretty little crock for storing Rillettes de Porc later this week…I was on my way to score my shellfish. And yes…Costco was doing a Seafood Roadshow! I bought clams and jumbo shrimp there, and mussels and oysters at another location along with the chicken. Let’s face it…Costco had chicken to feed an army. I didn’t want to feed an army…just the two of us! Making paella for 2 is almost impossible anyway, but I still wasn’t cooking that much! LOL!
Back home, I’d convinced myself I didn’t have to make paella this night…it was a heck of a shopping trip…3 hours, 4 stores, plus dealing with repackaging and putting it all away. But…that siren song won’t leave me alone… I pulled out my old recipe and realized it wasn’t exactly “authentic” by my current standards…so I went hunting. After reading through a dozen recipes, I got the hang of it, and realized, my dish wasn’t going to be 100% authentic this time either…I had no red peppers. I could have sworn I did, but…I sure couldn’t find them. Oh well. Close though!! But…the shellfish was fresh, and still alive…oh let’s just GO FOR IT!
I started by rubbing my drumsticks with salt and smoked Spanish paprika. Wow…smelling good already! While that was sitting for a bit to get some of the flavor going, I peeled my shrimp and put the shells in a pan with just enough water to cover them along with a bay leaf. I brought them to a low boil and let them simmer for a bit, until we got a nice delicate “shrimp” perfume coming off the pan. I set it aside to cool a bit. I’m sorry I didn’t stop to take prep shots…it would have broken this up some.
Next I sliced half of my chorizo…oh my…tasty little thing! As I researched chorizo, there appears to be a cooking chorizo and a snacking chorizo. Perhaps I brought home a snacking chorizo. Darn tasty little nosh…smoky…a little bit of heat, but packed with flavor! I found myself wishing I’d bought the quince paste that was right there. That’s what goes with the chorizo and manchego as a tapas…quince. Darn! Another project… *Ü* Still….it’s Spanish Chorizo. If this was all I had to work with…next time I’d dice a bit for the pan…for the flavor and the color, but I’d add the sausage to the paella just before the shrimp and seafood so it doesn’t dry out too much. Still, it added an incredible flavor! The next step was to chop an onion…I used half an onion for 4-6 servings, and that seemed to be plenty.
Now…to start cooking! A bit of olive oil for the pan…and I just happened to have Spanish Olive Oil! Good Ol’ Trader Joes! The chicken needs to be browned on all sides, and particularly the presentation side. One side of the chicken is going to be “sunny side up” throughout the remainder of the cooking, so you want one side of it particularly pretty (and pretty much surface cooked as well). When the chicken looks all nice and pretty, remove it to a dish and add your rice, with a little more oil if needed. While the rice is toasting, add in the chopped onion, and your sliced cooking chorizo. Add in sliced fresh peppers at this point, or roasted peppers after the rice has started to toast. I used 2 cups of rice (Spanish Calasparra or Bomba are recommended; pearl rice may be used; I used Uncle Ben’s Converted…this is the only recipe I use it in). When the rice is nicely toasted, but not too browned, add a pinch of Mancha Saffron and your liquid. There are several opinions as to what this should consist of…water, wine, broth… I used primarily chicken stock but also 1 cup of the shrimp fumet, for a total of 4-5 cups of liquid. I don’t have this part quite down yet. I never get enough liquid in to cook the rice and yet, crust the bottom of the pan…someday… *sigh* Nestle your chicken parts evenly in the pan. Add a clove of garlic to each “serving” and let it simmer at a low heat for “awhile” until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and you start smelling the aroma of the rice toasting on the bottom of the pan. Set your cleaned shrimp on top of the rice and skoosh (wiggle and squish) the mussels and clams around so their hinges are down in the rice to cook. Still…never covering the pan (ok…when we get here…I do for just long enough to cook the shellfish!). And here’s our reward….
Can you smell it? It’s slightly smoky, a whiff of the sea, and just a touch enchanting…that’s the saffron… Come a little closer…
Yes, I still have a few things to learn…but this was an improvement in flavor over other recipes we’ve used that worked around the lack of available resources. It’s time to look for a genuine paella pan…I’ll find one…when the time is right! *grin* That’s how it works. In the meanwhile, this satisfied my deep desire for adventurous cooking! And it was fun to watch the various vendors as I asked for just 6 of this and that. Well…no sense in over buying! Even just 6 shrimp, clams and mussels proved too much…along with the chorizo, chicken, rice and did I mention oyster on the half-shell appetizer? That’s what I get for waiting until I’m TOO in the mood!
Until the next time! Happy Cooking!