The Ultimate Paella!

Adam Z. Markham

In preparation for an upcoming trip to Spain my wife and I had two friends to dinner… Barb and Dave have traveled Spain extensively and we wanted to pick their brains. Deciding to cook paella, I proceeded to look in my cookbook collection for the best version I could find… evidently things were not going to be that simple. I found great and dramatic variation between the recipes.

I then checked out the web. Big mistake. The recipes I found there were even more disparate in opinion! Some folks were purists, insisting on the inclusion of rabbit and the exclusion of seafood. Some cooked on the stove top while others espoused an oven-based method. Some added saffron while others insisted its inclusion was akin to culinary heresy.

What started out as a simple search for a decent recipe ended up (much to the chagrin of my adorable wife) turning into a day-long quest for the perfect paella recipe.

Researching the history of the dish, I discovered it was originally cooked over an open flame often made from grapevines. Grapevines being hard to come by in the wilds of Bedford County, I decided to utilize my trusty Weber gas grill, “Old Smokey”!  Being an enormous fan of all things porcine I decided that the addition of chorizo was not even up for debate… pig simply makes life a better place. Seafood seemed an obvious choice, as did chicken, so I settled on mussels, shrimp and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The most traditional rice for paella seemed to be Bomba, but due to difficulty in sourcing it (as well as a bout of periodically-occurring procrastination) I decided to use Arborio instead.

The end result was shockingly tasty and was proclaimed by our guests to be the “Ultimate Paella” (insert mental image of host grinning like an idiot)!

I strongly recommend sourcing and buying a paellera (the traditional cooking vessel). They are usually sold based on the number of servings they will produce. This recipe was developed using a 6 serving paellera approximately 16″ in diameter that I purchased from Provisions Gourmet in Roanoke. If you don’t happen to have a paellera – and are determined not to own one – you could substitute an oven-safe skillet of similar diameter although I don’t recommend it (hey, I said it was the ultimate paella, I never said anything about easy or quick).

Suggested Wine Pairings: If you are in the mood for white, a nice Albarino such as Salvenal Cosecha 2008 (only $14.99 at Wine Gourmet) would work nicely. For a red wine, try a Spanish Garnacha such as Atteca Old Vines 2008 (an absolute bargain at $17.99!).

Mmmmm..... paella!

Grilled Mixed Paella
Serves 6  VERY hungry people

½ cup good dry white wine – preferably Spanish
1 tsp. saffron threads, crushed
1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, peeled, cut into 1 in. dice – skin reserved
5 large cloves garlic, peeled, minced – skin reserved
½ cup packed fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves, lightly chopped – stems reserved and chopped
1 ½ lb. shrimp – peeled and deveined, lightly sprinkled with sea salt – shells reserved
7 cups good quality low-sodium chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 tbsp. olive oil (preferably Spanish)
8 oz. Spanish chorizo cut into ½ in. chunks
6 boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1 red bell pepper cut into 1 in. dice
1 green bell pepper cut into 1 in. dice
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
½ tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. sweet paprika
2 ¼ cups unwashed Arborio rice
2 to 3 tbsp. demi-glace, depending on strength
10 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
¾ cup fresh peas (frozen is acceptable)
½ cup pitted olives [preferably Spanish (such as Manzanilla) stuffed with anchovies – trust me!]
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
½ lb. mussels – cleaned and debearded
3 large lemons

Preheat grill over medium high heat and cover. Ideally the grill should hover around 350˚.

Prepare all ingredients (mise-en-place) beforehand. Put thyme, sage, and both the sweet and the smoked paprikas into a mortar and pestle and grind until well combined.

Put saffron into white wine to soak.

In a medium saucepan add reserved shrimp shells, onion and garlic skins and parsley stems to chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes. Strain. Keep broth hot but not boiling.

On grill, add olive oil to a paellera (paella pan) for six and heat until shimmering. Add chorizo (do not be tempted to use Mexican chorizo because it is too greasy) and brown all over. Remove. Salt chicken, add to pan and sauté until nicely-browned. Remove. Add onion, peppers and fennel. Lightly salt and sauté 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the herb/paprika mixture to the pan, along with garlic, and continue to stir for another minute.

Add rice to pan and stir until grains are evenly coated with oil and beginning to become translucent. Add the demi-glace, half of the parsley, tomatoes, peas and olives. Stir until demi-glace has melted. Return the chorizo and chicken to the pan.

Stir in the wine/saffron mixture and 4-4 ½ cups of the stock (there should be enough to cover the rice by ½ inch or so). Cook with grill lid open, occasionally stirring gently, until dish is no longer soupy but still contains plenty of liquid, 5-10 minutes. Level out the top of the paella, place rosemary sprig on top and close grill lid. Cook without stirring for 10 minutes at 350˚, checking occasionally to ensure the rice is not burning. More stock may be added as necessary (see note below).

Open grill lid and nestle shrimp into the paella. Insert mussels hinge-side down and close grill lid. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any unopened mussels.

Remove from heat. Scatter remaining parsley and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top and cover with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes. Serve in the paellera at the table with additional cut lemon wedges as garnish.

PLEASE NOTE: Paella is ALL about the rice. The additional ingredients are subject to change and should be considered secondary to the perfect rice. When properly executed, the rice texture should be somewhere between the fluffiness of a pilaf and the creaminess of a risotto, with nice little “crunchy bits” around the bottom and sides of the pan. Remember: the rice will continue to cook as it rests, so to compensate, it should actually be a bit TOO al-dente at the end of cooking phase. If the rice appears to be absorbing all the stock but is not yet sufficiently cooked add a bit more stock. If it appears to be getting done but the rice is still a bit too soupy, open the lid to the grill and turn it up (being careful not to let the paella burn on the bottom).

…Adam

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Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hi Mom!!

Confessions of a chop-a-holic

Local weatherman and weekend co-anchor for WDBJ7, Jay Webb contacted me recently to ask if I’d be interested in fixing something (foodwise) on the “Weekend Diner” segment for the News 7 Sunday Morning show.  Jay found me through a friend who had done the show once before but was only lukewarm for repeating his performance. The friend recommended me and Jay went with it.
Anyway, I pondered the offer for a fraction of a second and agreed.  It was, after all, television.  This would be not only an opportunity to promote Wine Gourmet but also to get my made-for-radio face beaming into living rooms all over the valley.  At 8am on a Sunday morning I might be playing only to cereal-munching children, sleepy-eyed adults and bored household pets but, at least, it would be a step closer to show biz.   (Show biz!)
I pored through my cookbooks and recipe files until I happened on something that I thought would work within the necessary restrictions of time and culinary infrastructure.  Jay told me that I’d have only three-four minutes for the segment and so I knew that, whatever dish I chose, it would have to be something quite simple.
I selected an Italian dish that I’d made once before, Braciole al Gorgonzola – or simply, Pork chops in Gorgonzola sauce.  I practiced making the dish twice in the week leading up to the show to ensure that I could pull it off within the constraints – and I was confident.
I arrived at the studio trailing gas burners, pans, knives, utensils, cutting board, and food.  A crew member directed me to an area of the studio set-up as a faux kitchen.  It featured some baker’s racks along a wall that were festooned with vaguely kitchen-y knick-knacks that appeared to be culled from yard sales and second-hand stores.  This would serve as a backdrop.  In front of the racks were two steel tables pushed together to form an “L” and this would be the stage for the dish to be created.  I’ve visited TV sets before and I’m always amazed at how normal and natural things can look on the screen versus the reality of the set.  That is, on TV, everything looks solid and substantial.  Get behind the scene however and you see that these are cheap sets finished only to the extent that the camera can see them.  Out of camera view, TV sets are a patchwork of exposed plywood, duct tape, signal cables, and tissue boxes – just like sets in a theater production.  There’s little point in pouring money into things that can’t be seen.
I sorted my things out from the boxes I’d hauled them in and prepared to get all Emeril on them.  As I set up, I was coached about how the segment would go, fitted with a microphone, given the hand signals used to indicate remaining time in the segment, and begged not to produce smoke (apparently the fire alarm had been set-off at some time in the past and the Fire Department took a dim view of having to respond).
As I had to have some chops already cooked by the time Weekend Diner would begin, I started applying heat to meat and kept an eye out for smoke.  Jay and crew could not have been nicer or more accommodating and, as the aroma of pan-fried pork began to fill the studio, I got a lot of happy nods from them.
Here’s a link to a video of the segment and the recipe.
 

http://www.wdbj7.com

 

Braciole al Gorgonzola  (Pork Chops in Gorgonzola Sauce)

Ingredients:

This recipe is for two pork chops. You can simply scale it up for however many chops you’d like to do.

2 lg. Pork chops
1 Tbl. Butter
1/4 cup dry white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc are both ideal)
2 oz. Crumbled mild gorgonzola cheese
1 Tbl. Finely minced red bell pepper
2 Tbl. Finely chopped Italian parsley
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions:

Using a thick-bottomed pan, bring the pan up to heat under a med./med.-high setting.

Salt and pepper the pork chops

Once the pan is hot, add a dollop of olive oil and the butter. As soon as the butter has melted, while it’s still sizzling, add the chops to the pan. Cook the chops 5-6 minutes, per side, for medium thickness or 8-10 minutes for 1″ + thickness.

After the chops are cooked, reduce the pan heat to low and move the chops to a warmed plate. (Either tent the chops with foil to keep warm or place in a warm oven.) Pour in the wine and stir to release the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. The wine will steam and reduce. When it has reduced by half its volume, add the gorgonzola, pepper, and parsley. (You could also save some of the pepper and parsley to decorate the chops.) Stir and the ingredients will incorporate into a sauce. Once fully formed, spoon the sauce over the chops and serve immediately.

Decorate the top of the chops with a sprinkle of parsley and bell pepper.

Try this with a side of pan-fried asparagus with Parmesan and some oven-roasted potatoes.

As for wine, this dish will go very well, the best really, with the wine that you used to make the sauce.

(Try Elena Walch Pinot Grigio or Chartron La Fleur white Bordeaux [Sauvignon Blanc])

Published in: on March 3, 2010 at 8:01 pm  Leave a Comment