Recently, I had reason to celebrate. Brett and I have been together for 3[!] years. Holy dang. I know that may not sound impressive to some of you (yes, I’m talking to you, parents-who-have-been-married-for-26-years), but for me? That’s a serious accomplishment. And since we’ve never bothered to celebrate any anniversaries before (in fact, we made up a date, but that’s normal right?) I thought we ought to at least recognize this one. So I decided to be fancy and nice and make dinner! [and possibly drink too much wine, I’m not telling.]
I had been wanting to make paella for-ev-errr and had a recipe bookmarked in my cookbook. So when searching through it to find something to make, lo and behold, the book fell open to the paella page! Perfect! I don’t know if I’ve ever had paella before this… but it sounded really good and looked a little fancy (I mean, it had shrimp and mussels.. can’t you call that a little fancy?) so decided to splurge on the saffron and go for it.
Turns out, my grocery store is not as well-stocked as I expected. I could find no chorizo, no saffron and no mussels. Hm. Issue. Okay, I figured, we have fresh fish that Brett just caught, we can use that instead of mussels (which I wasn’t entirely sure either of us liked anyway) and I can use portugese sausage instead of chorizo..but no saffron?! It seems like that would be kind of essential, right?! After much searching and fretting and eyebrow scrunching and asking the workers oh-so-nicely-yet-with-a-slight-tone-of-desperation-and-urgency-and-yes-I-might-cry-if-you-don’t-have-saffron, I found both saffron and real chorizo. In the fancy section. Yeah, uh-huh that’s right, my grocery store has a separate section for fancy things. Why? Probably just so they can charge me more. But hey, I’m a sucker for fancy packaging so I bought. Mussels were still on the outs though, but I didn’t cry about it or anything. Really.
So I came home with all my ingredients in hand, and proceeded to make my very first paella. Boy, did I! Man! It was so good! I’m not even trying to toot my own horn here or anything, it was just really delicious! I thought for sure I had made enough for lunch leftovers for at least a day or two, but we literally ate the entire pan. THE ENTIRE PAN. That was two breasts of chicken, a huge chorizo sausage, a giant filet of mahi, and a half pound of the hugest shrimps I’ve ever seen. And that’s just the meat selection. Holy-oh-my-goodness. I’m made it again weekend. You should make it this weekend.
Paella (from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook)
I’m going to give you the recipe straight from the book, but when I made it, I halved this recipe and made some changes, which I’ll add in parentheses. And a half-recipe filled up my entire 12-inch pan (which is the size pan that the recipe calls for so I don’t know how that works..), almost to the brim..and then we ate it all. So if you are cooking for more than 3 people, find a way to make the whole recipe because otherwise you’re going to have angry people who want more paella on your hands. The recipe claims to feed 8, and maybe I come from along line of porkers, but I’d said a full recipe could probably only feed 6 if you’re lucky. Also, the best thing about this dish is that you can be really flexible with the ingredients. Use your favorite meats and veggies, and as long as you have rice and saffron and the other spices (and maybe chorizo cuz boy oh boy that stuff was good) I’m pretty sure you still get to call it “paella.” What a nice word.
INGREDIENTS: for 6 servings
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs [I used 2 chicken breasts for a half recipe]
- 2 fully cooked chorizo sausages
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes with sauce
- 1/2 cup dry white wine [plus plenty more for drinking!]
- 2 cups short grain rice, such as arborio
- 4 oz green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 can chicken broth [14.5 ounces]
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp loosely packed saffron threads, crumbled [I’m pretty sure I did not crumble mine..]
- 1/8 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 bay leaf
- 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded [I used one large filet of mahi in place of this for a half recipe. For a full recipe, use 2 filets of your favorite fish, or really any other type of shellfish you like]
- 12 oz medium shrimp, shelled and deveined [I used a half a pound of the hugest shrimp I’ve ever seen..]
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- In a deep, non-reactive 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add chicken and [whole] chorizo and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. with a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and chorizo to bowl.
- reduce heat to medium. add onion and chopped pepper to skillet; cook, stirring frequently until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cayenne pepper and cool, stirring frequently for 30 seconds. add tomatoes and wine and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up tomatoes with side of spoon until all liquid as evaporated.
- stir in rice, green beans, water, broth, salt, saffron, thyme and bay leaf. Thinly slice chorizo and add chicken and chorizo back into pan. Heat to boiling over high heat, then reduce heat; cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- tuck mussels [or fish] into paella; cover and cook 3 minutes. Tuck shrimp into paella; cover and cook 3 more minutes, until mussels have opened and shrimp are opaque. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf and any mussels that did not open. Sprinkle with parsley.
- EAT AND ENJOY! [with several glasses of wine…]