For me, cooking is a inexpensive way to take a culinary excursion to an exotic land and savor their delectable cuisine in the comfort of my own home and without the hassle and expense of travel. Yeah, I’m a cheap date. If you are game for an adventure, I dare you to try this famous dish from Spain, Paella.
According to Damian Corrigan, Spain travel advisor for http://www.about.com/, “Paella comes from the Latin ‘patella’ The Latin word ‘patella’ means ‘pan’ and it is from this word that the Valencian word ‘paella’, which also means ‘pan’, is derived.” Paella is traditionally a rice dish cooked by laborers in a low flat pan, much like a frying pan, over an open fire. From here, there are several variations and everyone has their favorite version. Every recipe calls for a different list of ingredients- like lobster, clams, chicken, pork, rabbit and even squid and snails. But every paella dish has saffron, the spice that gives it a distinct flavor and its yellow color.
¡No lo imagine, disfrútelo! (Don’t imagine it, enjoy it!)
The paella we are going to explore is Paella de Marisco, or seafood paella. The shrimp are cooked in this dish with the shell on, this seals in the flavor. Your guests will peel their shrimp as they get to them when they are enjoying your masterpiece, so have a few empty bowls on the table for the shrimp and mussel shells. If you really want to set the mood, eat our doors with a couple of tiki torches, a red table cloth and have Spanish guitars playing flamenco music in the background. Just get an mp3- don’t actually hire a band.
Paella de Marisco (Inspired by Emeril Lagasse’s Paella)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
Serves: 6-8 people
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into small pieces salt & black pepper ½ lb. country ham chunks
1 medium/large chopped yellow onion1 chopped green bell pepper3/4 cup chopped celery (2-3 stalks)4-6 tablespoons minced garlic (your choice)3 cups uncooked white rice 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled tomatoes or 1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon hot sauce 9 bay leaves 3 tablespoons Creole seasoning 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (very expensive seasoning, but worth it)6 cups chicken stock (OK to make with chicken bullion)1 lb raw shrimp in their shells
36 mussels (Wal-Mart frozen seafood section- they are already scrubbed and debearded)
1-Cut up the chicken and chop onion, bell pepper, celery, tomato and garlic. These items get added 1 after another, so save time by having them all ready before you start.
2-Heat olive oil over high heat in a large deep saucepan. Olive oil smokes at high temperature, so make sure the chicken is ready when the oil gets hot. Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt & pepper, then add to hot oil carefully (cook 8-10 minutes). Cook chicken until brown on all sides, then add ham chunks (cook 3-4 minutes).
3-Add onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic and rice (cook 2-4 minutes).
4-Add tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, bay leaves, Creole seasoning and saffron. Cook 2 minutes.
5-Add chicken stock and stir. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 12 minutes.
6-Add shrimp and mussels on top of rice mixture. If rice mixture starts to look dry, it is OK to add another ½ cup water and stir. Cover and cook 4-6 minutes. Shrimp shells will turn pink when cooked and the shrimp meat will be white. The mussel shells will open when cooked. Throw away any mussels that do not open.
Scoop your paella into a big bowl and arrange the mussels on top in a circular pattern. Hey, it’s your paella, make any shape you want. I don’t actually eat mussels, but in my house, it’s not paella without them. Place the bowl in the center of the table and let your guest help themselves- ¡Olé!