Saturday, January 23, 2016

Weeknight Paella

Is Paella possible on a weeknight?  Yes, if you just think of it as enhanced chicken & rice and don't worry about cooking it in the traditional wide paella pan over an open flame.

Basic chicken and rice (or Arroz con Pollo) is simple.  In a large pot, cook two cups of uncooked rice in 4 1/2 cups of liquid seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano and paprika. I like short grain brown rice but regular rice is acceptable and also faster cooking.  Use water, chicken broth or a combination of both as your liquid. Sometimes I add a little tomato paste or chopped tomatoes, especially if they are very ripe and need a good home.  During the last fifteen minutes add cut up boneless chicken pieces and a cup of frozen peas. Cover and cook until the chicken is done.

Turn this into weeknight paella with the following enhancements (complete recipe is below). If you have saffron, add a few threads to your rice.  If not, try a combination of smoked paprika and turmeric instead.  Add bottled clam juice to your rice liquids.  Substitute clam juice for all or most of the water.  I use half chicken broth; half clam juice. 

While the rice cooks, sauté an onion, some red bell pepper and celery in a separate skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  I also add chopped carrots and sliced green beans.  Add these ingredients to the rice when the rice is halfway cooked.

When your rice is almost tender and has about 10 minutes left to cook, add cut up boneless chicken pieces, peeled raw shrimp and slices of chorizo sausage.  Now is the time to add frozen artichoke hearts and frozen peas.  Check the liquid.  Add more broth, clam juice or water.  At this stage I usually add about 1/2 cup more liquid and carefully bury the new ingredients in the hot rice mixture. 

When the chicken and shrimp are completely cooked, garnish your paella with some black olives and fresh chopped parsley and dish into wide bowls. 

Here is the recipe.  The ingredient list is longer than I usually use for weeknights but you can mix and match vegetables to keep it easy. To me the key flavors in paella are saffron, red bell pepper, poultry, seafood and garlicky chorizo.  Most vegetables work well so pick some your favorites from the group listed. 

Weeknight Paella
Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups rice (short grain brown rice preferred)
5 cups liquid (chicken broth, clam juice and/or water)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
pinch saffron threads
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
optional: 2 carrots, peeled and chopped, 1 cup green beans, sliced, 1 medium zucchini sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless chicken— breasts or thighs, cut in bite sized pieces
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 box frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 pound Chorizo sausage*, sliced (about 12 slices)
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup black olives 

3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

Method

  1. Combine rice, 5 cups liquid, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and saffron in a large covered pot.  
  2. Bring rice to a boil, lower heat to simmer and cook covered. (Brown rices will take 45-50 minutes; white rices will take about 30 minutes.)
  3. While rice cooks, sauté onion, red bell pepper, celery and any other fresh vegetables you like in two tablespoons olive oil.  
  4. Add vegetables to rice when rice is abut halfway done.   
  5. About ten minutes before the rice is finished, taste the rice to see if it is done.  It should be hard in the center but you will be able to bite through it.  At this point a bowl of paella is about 10 -15 minutes away! Add chicken, shrimp, chorizo, artichokes and peas.  Give the pot a good stir to bury the new ingredients and check your liquid to make sure the bottom of the pot is not dry.  If needed, add 1/2-1 cup extra liquid to ensure rice is wet enough to share a little steam with the chicken and shrimp.  
  6. Cover and cook paella on low until chicken and shrimp are cooked through.  Taste the rice and adjust seasoning as needed with a little extra salt, pepper or paprika. Serve topped with black olives and parsley.
And… some of us add a little extra virgin olive oil from Spain and a squeeze of lemon to paella at the table.  

Elegant Life Leftovers: Weeknight Paella can be frozen for another easy night.  Cool completely in the refrigerator then pack into serving sized freezable containers or freezer bags.  Reheat in the microwave on a low setting or pop the serving out and into a pan with a few tablespoons of water.  Reheat over low heat.