Rice, tomatoes, saffron, spicy sausage heartiness = yummy comfort food. I’m calling this one Non-Paella because I don’t want to insult the real thing. Either way, meat and seafood combined is what I think most people outside of Spain think of when they think of paella. This one turned out to be fantastically satisfying and reminiscent of our trip to Spain.
We got back from Spain two weeks ago. Being back in Europe after three long Europeless years was like coming home. We ate lots of amazing food, walked all over six different beautiful ancient cities, got our rental car stuck in one of the only three narrow streets in a medieval village, in the middle of siesta (See comment below. Just wish I got a video of it.), and met some really amazing people, including a very gentle Italian cheese maker at a marketplace in Madrid, and a nice German woman who looked and sounded just like Bjork as she complained to us about the kids setting off firecrackers outside of her restaurant during Las Fallas.
Reading between the lines: The non-recipe related news:
While I took lots of pictures (mostly in real film because it’s just better) of all of the amazing food we ate and markets we went to, I haven’t written yet because it’s been an exhausting, let-down of a couple of weeks – more so than the usual post-vacation depression. When it rains it pours – couple of bad colds, a broken car and general malaise. On the upside, the rental I got to temporarily replace my broken car was a Fiat – a nice Italian sports car to pretend we’re back in Europe.
Back to the Non-Paella…
The first time I made this, in place of the huge red prawns we enjoyed in Tarragona, I used some sad little Northern Shrimp we got and froze a couple months ago while they were in season. Northern Shrimp are the sweet, cute little pink guys that are harvested off the coast of Maine in winter. For this post I used wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, which are my favorite – sweet and meaty. You can use any shrimp really though, just adjust the initial simmering time to fit the size. I like to simmer unpeeled shrimp into the stock beforehand to infuse some shrimpy flavor and then peel them before tossing them into the paella in the last few minutes, unlike in Spain where the whole shrimp is cooked into the rice. But that’s just me. I love the shrimpy flavor, but I don’t particularly like getting my hands all goopy.
For the pepper, you could use a red bell pepper, but I find that they can be little flavorless this time of year. Instead I prefer sweet long peppers for their milder, sweeter flavor.
And finally, the rice: you know how normally you’d use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice? That’s if you’re cooking rice in a covered pot. Paella pans are shallow and wide, and in order to account for the amount of liquid that boils off, you’ll need a much higher ratio. I’ve found that a 4:1 liquid to rice ratio works well.
New England Style Non-Paella Paella – 4 raciones
5 cups of chicken or mild beef stock
1 lb shrimp, heads off, unpeeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large vidalia onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and diced
3/4 – 1lb spicy, fresh (uncooked) sausage (like chorizo), sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/3 cup fresh green peas
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon sweet or mixed paprika
10 threads of saffron
1 1/4 cup medium grain white rice
In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, bring back to a low boil. Reduce heat simmer for 2-4 minutes or so depending on size until cooked. Remove the shrimp from the stock using a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Set both aside.
In a large paella pan or shallow saute pan, bring the olive oil to a shimmer over medium heat. Add the onions and cook 5 minutes until translucent. Lower heat, add the garlic and chorizo and cook another 10 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.
Stir in the peas, tomato, pepper, paprika, saffron and the rice. Stir it all together so that the rice is coated in the fat and juices in the pan.
Pour the stock over the rice/meat mixture. Using a spoon, gently submerge any visible grains of rice. Those not submerged will not cook. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until rice is done and most of the liquid is evaporated off. Do not stir.
Peel the shrimp, de-vein if necessary and discard shells. Add the shrimp to the paella and simmer another 10 minutes. Season to taste.