Monday, August 3, 2009

The paella plan

It all started with two big orange bell peppers.

I had gone grocery shopping and bought too much fresh veg, forgetting I was going away, and returned from my trip to find the peppers on their last legs. But what to do? I had already made a quick salad of the first one. But how many other dishes include bell peppers (if you don’t feel like roasting them or stuffing them)? I also had some organic chicken legs kicking around the back of the fridge and a couple of quality beef hot dogs from a bbq were chillin’ too. Perusing the freezer, there were some long lost frozen peas and a handful of shrimp.

But it was the saffron I spotted in the spice cupboard – a gift from someone who went to Spain last year (but who?) that would be the linchpin of my plan: An easy paella.

Now all I needed was some chicken stock (no problem; I used some Parve powder) plus a few squirts of spicy Hungarian tomato and pepper paste I had pocketed in Budapest. Some saut̩ed fresh onion and garlic plus arborio rice -- all three always on hand Рand within a half hour I was enjoying a delectable Spanish feast.

Project paella: Mission (deliciously) accomplished.


(serves 4)


3 cups chicken stock (plus an extra half cup if rice gets dry)

good pinch of quality saffron threads

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 chicken legs or thighs, season with salt and pepper

2 quality beef hot dogs (or sausages of your choice, like chorizo)

1 small onion, diced

1 large orange pepper, sliced into strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 ½ cups arborio rice

12 large cooked shrimp

1 cup of frozen peas

drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste


Bring stock to a boil then reduce to simmer. Add saffron and let it steep (like tea) for a few minutes. Remove stock from heat.

In a large (13 or 14-inch) oven safe skillet (I used a cast iron pan), add 1 Tbsp oil, heat up, then add seasoned chicken. Cook for about 8 minutes, then add in hot dogs or sausages and cook for a few minutes more. Chicken should be well-browned and hot dogs should have some colour too.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove meats from pan and set aside. Add second Tbsp of oil, add onion and orange pepper to pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomato pepper paste and garlic and cook together a few minutes more.

Add rice to pan with vegetable mixture until rice is well coated with oil and juices. Then add chicken and hot dogs back to the pan, spacing out the peppers and meat evenly. Pat it all down so it digs into the rice and rice is a nice even layer that blankets the bottom of the skillet. Slowly add stock to the pan.

Bring to a gentle boil then carefully transfer uncovered skillet to preheated oven and let it cook uncovered, for 20 minutes or until rice is tender and there’s no liquid left. If it’s not done and there’s no liquid left, add about a ½ cup more stock and pop back into oven.

With about 3 minutes to go, take paella out of oven and scatter shrimp and peas on top. Drizzle with a bit of olive and season with salt and pepper before serving.

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