Upon the return of Crystal from the exotic lack of waters in Nepal and North India, she arrived only to find that no full time employers knew to hire her. What an embarrassing mistake on their part. In the mean time, I am trying to focus my energy on things that make me happy. Yes, I just completely switched the narrative voice because you can do that when you have your own blog.
One of these many many MANY activities (not many) is cooking.
It was when my mother and I moved on our own at 12 years old that I really started cooking by myself. At 17 I lost 50 pounds and that’s when I discovered how I could make really good food, also be really healthy. I even played with the idea of going into culinary school, but that’s a rant for another post.
I recently bought a paella pan, and having a passionate love affair with the dish, I decided to make one.
Like all of my recipes, I research several sources, both electronic and paperback, and then I think how I can personalize it and make it healthier.
The following recipe is not too healthy so please don’t think otherwise haha. I console myself with portion control. I’d rather have a little of AMAZING than a lot of CRAP.
Note: you can buy a fancy paella pan that will impress even your snootiest relative, but just think, it’s not about looking nice it’s about tasting good, and a $200 cast iron paella pan (thou shalt not be name-dropped) is not even properly shaped, which is the whole point of the pan. I got mine for $20 bucks. Holler.
Warning: I cook like a Portuguese woman, that is I am very flexible with measurements, so get flexible.
2 sweet peppers (pick a colour, any colour)
3/4 large Spanish onion
10 gloves of garlic (I have an affinity)
15 inch Paella pan (an ordinary pan, in my opinion, will not have the same effect so get yourself a special pan to feel fancy and cool; this was mine Cucina D’Abruzzo Paella Pan)
3 cups of Arborio rice
5-6 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth
1.5 cups of dry red wine
1 TBSP salt (and some extra for chicken), cracked black pepper (and some extra for chicken), dried oregano
1/2 – 1 TBSP each cayenne pepper, smoked Spanish paprika, and turmeric
1/2 teaspoon crushed safron
Two handfuls of frozen peas
Parsley as much as your heart desires, 3 generous hand bunches was what I was feeling
6 dried Bay Leaves
4 chicken thighs without skin
1.5 chorizo sliced
17 mussels (I got mine for free from Whole Foods as a “sample”)
15 short neck clams
15-20 large shrimp (I left the shells on)
Step 1: Play some Spanish music, preferably Gypsy Kings, and also Hindi music, to get the creative juices flowing. Rub the chicken thighs with some salt and pepper, your measured cayenne pepper and the paprika. Honestly, whatever you want. Let your eyeballs guesstimate what you want. Use less cayenne if you don’t want it to be spicy.
IMPORTANT: I read conflicting rice to liquid measurements. Some people say do double the liquid to the rice, some say triple. I personally thought triple was too much so I did double and then I literally splashed extra until something inside me said it was enough hahaha. It turned out fine for me. Just trust your instincts, you can always add some more if it’s not enough. Make sure it’s on medium so the water doesn’t evaporate too fast.
Step 6: Cook for about ten minutes until the rice pops to the top. Now add your chicken, chorizo, and artistically place your clams, mussels and shrimp in a way that would suggest that you are a paella hero. Add the salt, pepper, oregano and turmeric as well, they’re starting to get lonely.
Step 7: Cover with foil and simmer for another 20 minutes. Don’t you dare mix it. Don’t. You. Dare. Just drink your wine. Then add your parsley and peas. If you mix it the starch in the rice will spread and become creamy like a risotto. No no no.
You know it’s done because the smell will make your soul cry and if it doesn’t do this then it’s not ready. Another indication is how the rice has cooked, you do not want it to be undercooked.
If you can get the imported medium grain rice it calls for (bombo) then seriously, good on you. You really are the paella hero. Also, don’t go to bulk barn for the arborio rice, they will charge you what I could use as a down payment.
Finally, the bottom of your rice should be slightly burnt, not like actually burnt, but just a little crispy/toasty with a dash of creamy goo. It’s called a socarrat and it’s the bomb. You will only achieve this on your stove top and not in your oven.
Let stand for 5-10 minutes (to really set in the socarrat, and absorb the remaining liquid) then all eat from the pan. My mother thinks this is gross and doesn’t care that it’s authentically Spanish to eat it that way, so maybe use serving plates. This meal easily will feed an army (6-8 people).