Paella!

Jan 05 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Oh no! The holidays are over and you intended to have your colleagues over to your house for a little holiday celebration. Nothing big, just your favorite faculty colleagues, maybe your department chair, bring the family, have some spiced cookies and nice wines, a little rum. But you fucked it up, the holidays came and went and you missed your opportunity to socialize and show off your hosting skills. How can you have them over now? Everyone is on holiday withdrawal, plus spiced cookies sound so 2010.

But there is still hope. That's right, invite them over for paella! There's nothing to cure a depressing winter sunday afternoon than a leisurely lunch of steaming, fragrant paella. A veritable treasure chest of delicious goodies that will not only showcase your cooking skills but will show off your international sophistication and élan.

So how do you make said paella? In Spain, they typically make paella with either "land" meat (rabbit, chicken) or with seafood, but not usually with both. It is typically cooked over a wood fire and requires patience and artistry passed down through generations. Down in Mexico, we disregard these silly conventions and mix everything together. This recipe uses a mix of seafood with sausage and chicken, but feel free to use any combination of meats and seafood. While the recipe may look daunting, it is actually very easy to do. If you want a test run, you can limit the types of meat used, or even try a vegetarian version (but this is not recommended - I think rabbit will impress your colleagues more).

You will need:

Olive oil

6 chicken thighs

4 sausages (chorizo, sweet Italian, whatever)

Shellfish (mussels, clams, etc. – calculate about 4-5 per person)

Un-peeled shrimp, or large crayfish (2-3 per person)

Squid (hoods and tentacles -1 squid per 2 people)

1 onion, quartered

1 red pepper cut into strips

1 cup frozen or fresh peas

About 4 cups of rice (see below)

Chicken broth (or water)

Salt and pepper

2 bay leaves

2 hefty pinches of saffron (or substitute 1/4 tsp of turmeric, but saffron is way better)

In the largest skillet you own, first brown the chicken and whole sausages in olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper on the chicken, and cook until the chicken is well browned and the sausages are cooked. Remove the meat and cut the sausages into thirds. Next briefly saute the red pepper and remove from pan. Briefly saute the quartered onion and then start adding the rice. The rice should cover the bottom of the skillet and should be no more than half an inch high. If your skillet is too small, use two skillets. Once you add the rice cook the rice in the oil for 2 minutes or so until it is nicely coated and shiny. Gradually add the broth until it covers the rice, about 1/2 to 2/3 inch above the top surface of the rice. Add the saffron and bay leaves, stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir once more and lower the heat and arrange the chicken, sausage, red pepper strips and peas over the rice in a single layer. Cover the pot, raise the heat for a minute or two and then lower heat. Wait 15 minutes (go make some sangria or something). After 15 minutes take a peek. The rice should be mostly cooked. If the liquid level is too low and the rice is very undercooked add very small amounts of broth to moisten, but not submerge the rice and cover and cook for a bit more. When the rice is almost done, arrange the seafood on top, again in a single layer. Add maybe a little more broth (about half cup, unless it is still soupy, then don't add more) to generate some steam. Cover, raise heat until you hear boiling noises and lower. Check every 5 minutes or so until the seafood is cooked (ie. shellfish has opened, shrimp is bright pink and squid is "curly" but not rubbery). Bring the whole pan to the table, call your colleagues and enjoy! Serve with plenty of sangria...

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