Monday, October 11, 2010

Weekly Recipe: Paella

Every once in a while my brain freezes and I can't think of things to put on our weekly menu.  My first recourse is to ask Wes if he has any suggestions.  The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me:  Wes, I'm making next week's menu.  Do you have any ideas or requests?  
Wes:  Um (long pause).  Not that I can think of right off hand.
Me:  Well think about it today and see if anything comes to mind.
Wes:  Okay, will do.
Later that day...
Me:  Did you think of anything for dinner next week?
Wes:  Not really.

So when he does make a suggestion out of the blue, you can imagine my excitement!  Even though I love cooking and love searching for recipes, it does get a little tiring to do it week after week with no added input.  Thankfully, he does eat whatever is put in front of him so I guess that's a plus.  

A couple of weeks ago he mentioned, in passing, that he'd like a good paella.  I was taken aback because a) I didn't know he had ever had paella and b) he made a dinner suggestion!  I put it on my mental list to add to the menu.  

Little did I know what lengths I'd have to go to to complete this dish.  Did you know there are no less than a million recipes for paella on the interweb?  And did you know each of those are different?  That's a little overwhelming considering I've never made it or tasted it before.  Where do I start?  I decided to start with my Old Faithful, Cooking Light.  

After I decided on a recipe, it was off to track down saffron.  Well being the fru-gal that I am, I had to search for the cheapest source.  The first place I looked was $16.59 a gram!  Holy cow!  I expanded my search to nontraditional locations, i.e. international grocery stores.  After calling 4 places, I finally tracked it down for $6.99 a gram.  I felt like I had won the lottery!  That is until I went to pick it up.  He only had a 2-gram package but after some sweet talk and batting of the eyes, I was able to convince him to open the package and sell me half.  I carefully watched as he eyeballed 1/2 of the red threads into a baggie.  As he was carefully transferring, I was carefully watching to see which one had more.  Before he could hand me anything, I picked up the baggie with the most and claimed it as my own.  I walked out of there with my little clear baggie feeling like I had just made a drug transaction.  After all, I did just pay $7 for a gram of some crocus stamens!

After all that I expected this dish to knock my socks off.  It didn't.  It was fine but I didn't think it was worth my efforts.  I still have quite a bit of saffron left so I do plan to try this again sometime.  This recipe has a lot of potential and I think I know where to begin the alterations.  I used a pork sausage from the Whole Foods meat counter in place of the chorizo.  I think that was my major mistake.  Apparently the chorizo renders a little more fat and crispy goodness than the sausage.  I also think a little hot sauce would help, as would the capers that I omitted.  I should have salted the dish since I omitted the salty capers but alas, I did not.  I'm posting it below so you can use it as a springboard if you so desire.  Again, it was good, it just wasn't spectacular.  Remember, I do have pretty high standards though!

Paella Vallencia

  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 3/4  pound  peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2  cup  thinly sliced Spanish chorizo sausage (about 2 ounces) (I used spicy pork sausage)
  • 2  (2-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, quartered (I used chicken breasts)
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2  cup  chopped tomato
  • 1  tablespoon  capers, drained (I omitted)
  • 1/4  teaspoon  saffron threads, crushed
  • 1  cup  Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
  • 2/3  cup  white wine
  • 1  (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2  cup  frozen green peas
  • 1/4  cup  water
  • 18  mussels (about 3/4 pound), scrubbed and debearded (I omitted)
  • 2 1/2  tablespoons  chopped bottled roasted red bell pepper (I omitted)
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh cilantro (I omitted)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Add shrimp to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until shrimp are done. Place shrimp in a medium bowl. Add chorizo to pan, and cook for 1 minute or until browned. Add chorizo to bowl.
Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Add chicken to pan, and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato, capers, and saffron; cook 1 minute. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, rice, wine, and broth to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until rice is tender.
Add shrimp mixture, peas, 1/4 cup water, and mussels to pan. Cover and cook 8 minutes over medium heat or until mussels open; discard any unopened shells. Remove from heat, and stir in bell pepper and cilantro. Let stand 3 minutes.


  1. Ooooh YUM!!!! That looks so good! I've never had/made paella either so I need to try this out!

    Love y'alls convo...sounds JUST like my husband...with everything. ;)

  2. LOVE the mental image of you conducting your sordid affairs in the spice shop! I have to say, you're a lot more devoted to your culinary adventures than I am.

    a) I would have ruled out any recipe using saffron.
    b) If I HAD chosen a saffron recipe, when I saw the pricetag I would have chucked the idea.
    c) If I HAD chosen a saffron recipe and I HADN'T chucked the idea after seeing the pricetag, I certainly would have after about the 2nd store I called.
    d) My 3rd phone call would have been to Pizza Hut.

    One final thought: chorizo is ALWAYS a good idea...

  3. For some reason, Saffron is one of those things I always to have in my kitchen, but it's just so darn expensive! We've gotten to where we've ordered some Mexican vanilla online, and I know on one of the websites we found you could get Saffron much cheaper than anywhere I had found around here. Good job on convincing him to split it though!

  4. I am SO surprised that you and Wes haven't had paella before b/c you're such foodies!!

    I do not love paella (mostly b/c I don't like a bunch of meats all hanging out together - yes, I just wrote that) but Sam and my family all love it. We've been to a couple of tapas restaurants that serve paella and I wonder if you checked out their menus if that would provide inspiration.

    They are crazy complicated so good for you for trying it out! I would definitely put the chorizo in and probably the red peppers you omitted.

    The restaurant we always go to:

  5. Don't give up on Paella yet.

    Look for a recipe with paprika in it. I wouldn't dream of making a recipe without Paprika in it!

    Here's the basic recipe I use, always a hit.

  6. Bravo to you for taking this dish on. This has always been file in my "love it, but will leave to the professionals" category : )