This blog I am not talking about the economy, business, architecture, or traveling - although you may have noticed I do love writing about those topics. This time it's about one of my other passions - food. This Friday evening (March 13th) I am cooking one of my favorite dishes - paella - at Westar in Scottsdale.
Paella (pie-ay-a) is a great dish and easy to make. The dish originated in Valencia, Spain near Lake Albufera, a coastal lagoon in eastern Spain. There are three common paellas - Valencian paella, seafood paella, and mixed paella - but the derivatives from there are endless. Valencian paella consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat, snails, beans and seasoning. Seafood paella replaces the meat and snails with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables. Mixed paella is a free-style combination of meat, seafood, and vegetables. My version definitely is in the free-style category and was developed from my experiences in Spain with my friend Joaquin Abati and his late mother (see the photos - yeah I did have hair on my head when I was younger), and other recipes I have researched and read over the years.
The key to this dish is a great paella pan. Pick one up at William Sonoma - they are an essential piece of equipment. I start with three key components - dark meat chicken, halibut, and chorizo - Spanish if you can find it. If you can't find chorizo I use andouille sausages from AJ's or Safeways. I make a little mixture of oregano, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl and dredge the chicken and fish in this mixture and let them sit for about 30 minutes.
Next I heat up some olive oil in the paella pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken, chorizo and fish in the pan, skin side down and brown on all sides, turning with tongs when browned. The chorizo will turn the oil a nice red color which will add to the rice color eventually. Once everything is browned, remove it to a platter lined with paper towels.
Lower the heat on the pan to medium. Now you want to work on the rice. I like to use arborio rice which is an Italian short-grain rice from the Po Valley - generally used for risotto - but great for paella. I start by using the oil and drippings in the pan by adding garlic, onion, tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook everything down until the mixture caramelizes and the flavors all blend together. You then fold in the rice, stirring to coat the grains. Let the rice heat up and almost fry in the mixture. Add the signature ingredient, saffron strands, by stirring these in. Now pour in chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid just like in a risotto (the only difference is you do not want to cover the dish or stir constantly).
After the 10 minutes of cooking the rice down, add the shrimp, lobster, clams, mussles and then add the chicken, fish and chorizo back in the mix. I like to cut the fish and chorizo into small pieces or slices so it gets nicely distributed throughout the paella. Tuck in all of the pieces and add more broth if you feel the paella is getting too dry - but you don't want it soupy either. I then add a little sprinkle throughout of Spanish sherry for flavor. Let the whole thing simmer without stirring until the rice is al dente, about 15 - 20 minutes. I then scatter frozen peas over the top and continue to cook for 5 more minutes, until the paella looks fluffy and moist, shrip are nice and pink, and the clams and mussels begin to open. The bottom of the pan might form a toasted rice bottom called a socarrat - it is delicious. Remove the paella from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges and enjoy!
If interested in attending the event, call my office and ask for Dianne and she can check on availability. 602-604-2001.
3 Chicken legs
3 Chicken thighs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish chorizo sausage
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 Spanish onion, diced
1 (16 ounce) can dice tomatoes
1 cup of Arbiorto Rice
1 teaspoon of saffron threads
2-3 small cans of chicken broth
1/4 cup Spanish Sherry
6 jumbo shrimp peeled with tails on and deveined.
1 lobster tails
6-8 clams, scrubbed
6-8 mussels, scrubbed and debearded.
1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish
Lemon wedges for serving