One of my favorite special occasion dishes is paella. My mom and I usually make it together, and when I was living in Spain, I either had it out or made it with my uncle. I don't even know if I've ever made one alone now that I think about it! Anyway, we were having our friends Dan and Nora over before life becomes really busy for them and they welcome their first baby in early May. We planned to do a Sequence night awhile ago and just got around to it this weekend. Given our unusually lovely spring weather, I wanted to make something on the grill and decided a paella would be perfect for the occasion. Hearty and delicious, yet even better made on the grill, allowing us to enjoy our bit of nice weather.
My aunt Alicia in Spain sent me some seasoning packets my uncle used to use for his paella and they unfortunately arrived a little too late for our Spanish Thanksgiving back in 2010. I am glad I finally got to crack one open. Although the traditional seasoning would just be saffron, this little packet has a few other good things, like paprika and garlic salt. And although I love my uncle's recipe, I opted for mom's, which I'm a little more familiar with these days and doesn't use metric measurements.
|Sauteeing the rice over a hot fire|
|The sofrito goes in and I hurry to mix it all in before anything burns|
|Slowly pouring the spices and fish broth|
|I mixed in the meat before the rice cooked, but added the peas in the last few minutes so they stayed nice and firm (nice shot of my beautiful engagement ring, too)|
|My only seafood for this one, shrimp|
|Our finished product before it goes into the house to rest|
|Ooooh....baby....and served with a good piece of bread and lemon wedge|
|For dessert, Nora's "they're not brownies" and ice cream|
What are some of your favorite "special occasion" dishes?
Paella a la Ana (<--that's my mom!)
Recipe written as adapted by me
2 cups bomba (paella) rice (or arborio/short grain rice), rinsed and well drained
3-4 cups fish or chicken broth
Pinch of saffron or Paellero seasoning mix, if available
1/2 lb pork, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces and trimmed of excess fat
1/2 lb medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined (shells saved if making broth)
1/2 lb Spanish chorizo*, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup of frozen peas, thawed
One recipe of sofrito (for this you need a onion, garlic, red bell pepper, and 1-2 tomatoes, depending on size)
To make the sofrito
Heat the broiler. Cut the bell pepper and tomato(es) in half and cover lightly with oil. Place the cut pepper and tomato, skin side up, on a cookie sheet. Broil until tomato skin is loose (about 2-3 minutes) and pepper skin is starting to blacken (5-10 minutes). Remove from oven and let tomato cool. For the pepper, wrap in paper towel and place in bag to steam off the skin. Mince the onion and garlic. Once pepper and tomato has cooled, finely dice and set aside. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, add onion. Cook until translucent, then add garlic, cook for 30 seconds. Add diced bell pepper and tomatoes and cook until starting to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
To make the paella
Preparation is key. There are two ways to do this--cook meat ahead of time and set aside until ready to use, or cook just before the rice. If cooking on the grill, you can cook the meat in the paella pan on the stove if you want to do it ahead of time so that you still get the fond on the bottom of the pan, which enhances the flavor. If cooking in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position rack to the middle.
Dry and season the pork and chicken. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the paella pan until shimmering, cook the chorizo. Remove the chorizo and cook the pork until browned on all sides. Remove from pan, then cook the chicken until browned. Set meats aside. Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil and add the rice. Sautee until the grains are starting to become translucent on the edges, before the rice browns. Add the sofrito. Mix in and cook until blended. Slowly pour about 2 1/2-3 cups of broth into the pan and scrap up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Mix in the meats, distributing around the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cover (or put in the oven). Let cook for about 10 minutes, checking around minute 7-8. If the mixture seems dry, add a little more broth around the edges. When the rice is almost done and the liquid almost all absorbed, add the peas, gently stirring them in. When rice is 2-3 minutes from being done, add the shrimp to the top of the paella. Cover again and let the shrimp cook until pink.
Remove the paella from the oven or grill and let sit uncovered for about 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.
*Spanish chorizo is generally available at specialty markets in cured form; if you're in the Portland area, Chop inside of City Market on NW 21st makes their own raw version of Spanish chorizo, which is what I used in this dish. I like it because it doesn't get as hard when cooked as does the cured variety.