The other day I was reading the most recent issue of National Geographic. Four of the articles featured animals (bats, salmon, lions, swans) and each focused on how these animals are up sh*t creek (in the case of the salmon, pretty much literally) because of human behavior.
In other words, an excellent, thought-provoking, and phenomenally depressing issue. One article, however, is about Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. The article itself is short, but the graphics that accompany it are beautiful and fascinating. Thinking about Spain always gets me thinking about food. In that sense, Spain has a lot in common with many, many other things.
In particular, my mind turned once again to paella. The missus and I received a paella pan for our wedding, but until last week I hadn't used it. That explains why there was still a label on the bottom of the pan. A label I didn't know about or see until the pan had been sitting on a medium high burner for a couple minutes. It took a few seconds to figure out why the entire house suddenly smelled like burning chemicals. The label was charred, but the pan was OK. I wish we had been filming. It would have made an excellent contribution to my show, which I plan on pitching to the Food Network. It's called Cooking While Stupid. It has been running in my kitchen for years now and includes such famous episodes as "Entire Bowl of Gazpacho All Over Floor!" and "Eccchh, That's Not Sugar!"
In any event, this paella turned out real nice, with local Chincoteague clams and all. Hearty and delicious. The spanish chorizo is really one of the best parts. Not only because the grease from frying it is great for sauteeing and flavoring the rice, but because any extra chorizo pieces you fry make for addictive appetizers while you wait. Enjoy.
Paella a la Cucina Mono
Feeds 4 to 6
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large (or 2 small) carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 bunch of fresh parsley, washed and chopped small
1/2 large (or 1 small) red bell pepper, diced
32 oz. chicken stock
12 strands saffron
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can of whole San Marzano (or regular old plum) tomatoes, chopped into large pieces
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 lb. spanish chorizo, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 cup of frozen green peas
2 cups arborio rice (traditionally use bombo rice. I have no idea where to get bombo rice).
1 cup dry white wine
6 jumbo shrimp or 12 large shrimp, peeled
12 large hard shell clams, scrubbed well
Note: add any kind of seafood you want, and omit the chorizo if you want, using olive oil in its place for the rice. That would leave you with a paella de marisco. Adding the chorizo and any other meat leaves you with a paella mixta. The allegedly original version is paella valenciana, which often has beans and snails. Mmmmmm, beans and snails.
(1) in a medium saute pan, heat olive oil. Add carrots, onion, and parsley and sautee, stirring, for about 4 minutes (this makes the soffrito). Add the red pepper, stir for a few more minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
(2) in a medium sauce pan, warm up the chicken stock (don't boil) and add the saffron, stir. Keep warm but out of the way.
(3) In same pan in which you sauteed the vegetables, place 1/4 cup of olive oil and bring to medium high heat.
(4) Add tomatoes (but only about 1/4 cup of their juice) to the olive oil, along with chopped garlic. Keep over medium heat for about 15 minutes or more, until the flavors and juices are condensed.
(5) In the meantime, in a large sautee pan (without oil) over medium high heat. Spanish chorizo is already cured and doesn't need to be cooked, but frying up the pieces will release their beautiful and delicious orange fat.
(6) After the chorizo has fried for a few minutes, remove the pieces with a strainer and set aside. Place the rice in the sautee pan and stir to coat with the chorizo fat, for about four or five minutes, stirring frequently.
(7) Add white wine to rice, and stir until wine has cooked off. Turn off heat.
Now, to assemble.
In your paella pan (or other large, shallow, oven safe pan), spread the rice in an even layer on the bottom. Then spread the tomato/oil mixture in an even layer on top of that, and the soffrito mixture on top of that. Then do the same with the peas and the chorizo. Once that's done, pour the chicken stock in slowly. If your pan isn't big enough, I can't help you.
Put in the oven at about 350 degrees, for 15 minutes. Remove and test the rice. It should still be somewhat firm--not ready to eat yet. Arrange the seafood how you like. Place back in oven, and turn heat up to 400 degrees. It should be read after 10 minutes or so (or when the clams and/or mussels have all opened). As always, avoid the shellfish that don't open.
Good with crusty bread and Spanish red wine.