A week or two ago, I asked my Facebook peeps what they would like as the subject of my next food blog. Per request, I've already done Crème Brulee, now I'm honoring a request for Paella. This is not a particularly difficult recipe, but there are quite a few steps, so it is a little complicated.
Now if you were enjoying a delicious paella in Spain, it might contain lobster, mussels and maybe even rabbit. It is a celebration dish, put together by the community in a huge paella pan over an outdoor flame. This dish is made from supermarket ingredients in a Dutch oven on my stove. Still pretty delicious.
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
My version starts with the best seafood you can catch in the freezer aisle at Walmart. One pound of frozen raw shrimp and one pound of mussels. Mussels are a fantastic buy, you can get 2 pounds for $4. This recipe uses 1 pound. I also picked up frozen peas.
As far as the produce aisle, you'll need an onion, garlic, one red bell pepper, lemon and some parsley.
From the meat aisle, you'll need around five boneless, skinless chicken thighs and half a pound of chorizo. The recipe should have Spanish style chorizo which is a cured meat, but I ended up with raw Mexican style chorizo. I got no issues with substitutions.
For spices you'll need 1/2 teaspoon of saffron (non-negotiable and expensive) and a bay leaf. Plus salt, pepper and olive oil.
You will need two cups of Arborio rice. Again, non-negotiable. It won't have the right texture, otherwise.
Next, chicken broth, white wine and a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes.
I'll be cooking today in my big, beautiful enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven that I scored from Walmart.com. The brand is Tramontia and it's the next best thing to a $300 Le Cruset.
We'll need to mince 10 cloves of garlic. When I have one or two cloves, I work on my knife skills. When I got ten, it's garlic press time.
On a side note, my sister-in-law bought me this great little hand soap that takes out garlic smell. It works pretty well.
We will also need to dice a medium onion finely and then core and de-seed the bell pepper. Slice it into thin strips.
Thaw 1 lb of shrimp under running water and then peel and devein them if needed. You need to start with raw shrimp. Another non-negotiable. I get them shell-on and deveined. But you can get them peeled if you prefer. But make sure the shrimp are raw. Once they are peeled , toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper and about a teaspoon of garlic.
Drain the 14 ounce can of tomatoes.
Salt and pepper your chicken thighs on both sides.
Dice up the chorizo.
Heat olive oil in the Dutch oven. Add the red pepper strips and cook until they start to get a little black.
Remove the pepper and set aside once they start to get a little black. Leave the flame on. The chicken is going right into the pan.
Add the chicken to the pan. Let brown for four minutes until golden brown on one side, then flip over and cook for another three.
When they have browned, set aside in a bowl.
Add the chorizo and brown until the fat renders into the pan. Then put the chorizo into the bowl with the chicken. Add the onions to the Dutch oven.
Brown until they are soft and then add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.
Then put in the tomatoes.
Cook for about four minutes until tomatoes begin to brown.
Now add the rice to the tomato and onion mixture.
Cook for a couple of minutes and then add 3 cups of chicken broth and 1/3 cup of wine.
Next, the bay leaf and the saffron. Make sure you crumble up the saffron. Also about a teaspoon of salt.
Add the chicken and the chorizo and bring to a boil. Put the lid back on and put it into the oven.
Now's a good time to rinse off the frozen mussels. These are already de-bearded and washed for grit. But if you use fresh, make sure to de-beard and rinse thoroughly.
After about 12 minutes take the Dutch oven out of the oven. First, arrange the mussels hinge side down.
Then lay the shrimp on top.
Then the red peppers.
Next add half a cup of peas.
Put the lid back on and return it to the oven for 15 minutes. Then take it out. Any mussels that don't open can go in the trash. Now you have 2 choices.
You can either cover and let it rest for five minutes or put the crusty brown bottom known as the soccarat on the bottom. For some reason I keep thinking of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and how they call Socrates So-Crates. I'm random like that. It also didn't help that I was cooking with my husband. If you want to make the soccarat, just turn the heat up for about five minutes without stirring and then cover and let rest for five minutes. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top for freshness and color.
Serve with a wedge of lemon that you squeeze over the dish right before eating. It's delicious and worth the effort. This is also my friend Kelly's birthday dinner. But she's been so busy helping her mom recover from surgery that she hasn't been able to get over to eat it. So I'll be packing this up to take over to her.