Saturday, August 06, 2005

Post from my mother: Summer Paella

Note from me: this is making me very hungry right now, and I'm starting to get the taste flashbacks, which I didn't have before, from reading it. Gotta make it soon.

A cool, beautiful, and delightful main dish for approximately eight.

The many components are time consuming to prepare but can, and should, be done ahead. Alternatively, it can be made as a group project with members of the group assigned components to be combined at serving time. The recipe is only a general guide to be varied at the project manager's pleasure. You can get further inspiration by looking for paella and rice salad recipes in your favorite cookbooks. You can't have too much variety in the ingredients. Serve with French bread, green salad, and, according to Jerry, a sauvignon blanc or a chardonnay. Enjoy!

4 1/2 cups reduced salt chicken broth
2 pinches saffron
2 cups rice
white wine vinegar, approximately 3 tablespoons
extra virgin olive oil, XVOO, approximately 3 tablespoons
white wine, approximately 3 tablespoons
black pepper
2 ounces capers
6 ounces assorted olives
large, sweet onion , diced

Since the dish is basically a rice salad with a dazzling array of goodies mixed in and arranged on top, it is essential that the rice base be attractive and tasty. Don't add salt until you taste the almost-completed dish. Bring to a boil four (4) and a half cups of low salt chicken broth with two pinches of saffron. That is two 14 1/2 ounce cans of broth with a bit of water added. Other broths, vegetable, clam, home made, or a mixture, can be used. If the broth is salty (clam is salty), use part water. If there is no saffron in your cabinet, use a heavy sprinkle of paprika for color. (I understand that tumeric is a frequent substitute for saffron but I have never used it, so you are on your own. In any case, remember that saffron and tumeric are used as dyes and you don't want them on your clothes or on those of your guests.) Add two cups of rice, converted, long grain, arborio, or a combination. Simmer until rice is tender. If too wet, remove lid and continue to cook until moist but not watery. If dry but still too tough, add a little more water or white wine and continue cooking. The two cups of raw rice are now eight cups of cooked rice. One could use rice that was cooked earlier or brought from a Chinese restaurant but cold rice needs to be heated in steamer or microwave before continuing. Sprinkle HOT rice with white wine vinegar, first, so the flavor is absorbed. Sprinkle with an approximately equal amount of extra virgin olive oil (XVOO) and add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Rinse, drain, and add a 2 ounce bottle of capers. (Your supermarket may have different brands of capers in the condiment section, the Latino section, and the Italian section. In my market Goya in the Latino section is the cheapest.) Rinse and add 6 ounces of assorted green and black olives, canned, bottled, or deli counter. Add a large, diced Vidalia onion. If Vidalia onions are not available, dice another sweet onion such as Walla Walla, Texas Sweet, or Maui. Because these are stronger than Vidalia, soak the diced onion in ice water for 10 minutes, drain, and pat dry. One could also use a red onion, diced, rinsed, drained, and dried but it should be added later with the peppers because the color might bleed in the hot rice. Mix and taste the rice. It should be tasty enough to eat as a salad at this point. If not, add more vinegar, XVOO, and pepper. No salt yet! If it is dry at this point, add white wine until attractively moist. Chill thoroughly, preferably over night.

Cooked chicken pieces, with or without bones
Cooked sausage slices and/ or ham strips
Whole cooked shrimp and/or scallops and/or lobster pieces
Hard boiled eggs

The dish is raised to heights above mere rice salad by the meat and/or seafood add-ins. Use whatever appeals to you, cooked however you like. According to The New Joy of Cooking, page 224, rice salad with chicken should be equal amounts of rice to the total of everything else, including veggies. You have eight cups of rice. However, a New York Times Cookbook recipe for paella that I found on the web had a much higher proportion of meat to rice. You need to measure or estimate what you have in the volume of other ingredients as you go. If you find you have too much stuff, all are lovely leftovers. My suggestions follow.

Chicken: Use whatever chicken pieces you like or use the following. Cook three boneless, skinless chicken breast halves by the method in The New Joy of Cooking, page 592, which makes for reliably moist results. Preheat oven to 450 ° F. Trim, rinse, and pat dry breasts. Tear off three pieces 12 x 12 inch aluminum foil. Lightly grease one side of foil with XVOO. Lay piece of chicken on greased foil. Lightly grease chicken, lightly salt and pepper, on both sides. Loosely fold up foil and crimp into tight package. Repeat for each piece. Place on baking pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes depending on size of pieces. Let rest for 5 minutes and slit foil to release steam. Cut into thickest part of largest breast to make sure it is not pink inside. If so, put back in oven. Careful not to overcook. Cool and chill. Cut each piece lengthwise and slice across into pieces just smaller than your shrimp. Refrigerate until ready to use. (If you have a lot of broth in your baking pan and if you have not yet made your rice, you can add it to the cooking broth. Otherwise, freeze for another time.)(You can cook scallops the same way but remove in about 8 minutes to test.)

Sausage: Choose a sausage that is lean enough to be eaten cold and that is of an appropriate taste for the dish. I recommend Healthy Choice Polska Kielbasa, 25 % calories from fat, made of beef, pork, and turkey. Don't assume that chicken or turkey means it is lean -- read the label. I have never used salmon or other fish sausages but if you are familiar with them, you might use them. I don't recommend soy sausages. In my experience they have a distinctive taste that will dominate the dish. Regardless of the directions on the label, boil all hot-dog-like products for 20 minutes. The whole package is too much for this dish. Prick before boiling to try to keep sausages from splitting. Cool and chill. Slice approximately 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Ham: If you cannot find an appropriate sausage, it may be easier to find an appropriate ham. Choose a low fat, fully cooked ham, sliced at least 1/4 inch thick. I used John Morrell Ezi Cut Ham Steaks right out of the package. Cut in strips slightly longer and narrower than chicken pieces. Don't use whole package.

Seafood: Buy cooked shrimp, the largest available or the largest for which you want to pay. Or you can cook your own shrimp. Buy cooked lobster pieces or cook your own, if you do that sort of thing. If you use scallops, cook them to just done and still moist. Slice sea scallops to match chicken pieces or use bay scallops whole. Cool and chill and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Hard-boiled eggs: Allow 1/2 to a whole egg per guest, depending on how much other stuff is available. Don't bother with eggs if you have no use for rest of package. Cook as you usually do or use the directions in The New Joy of Cooking, page 124. Have eggs at room temperature or warm them in warm water. Cold eggs are more likely to crack in hot water. Bring to a simmer (very small bubbles rising) enough water to cover in a pot large enough to hold eggs in single layer. Lower eggs in with a spoon and keep eggs at a simmer for 14 minutes. Plunge hot eggs into very cold running water. Shock of the change will make eggs easy to peel. Chill and refrigerate until ready to use.

Vegetables add color and texture differences to the dish. Prepare diced bell peppers in multiple colors, approximately one cup. Red, orange, and yellow Holland peppers are most elegant, but are expensive. Ordinary red peppers are acceptable. You can use green bell peppers if all your guests are under 50 years of age. Roasted peppers, from jar or deli counter or home-made, are a possibility. Marinated sun-dried tomatoes are a possibility. Raw tomatoes are too wet but whole cherry tomatoes can be used as a garnish. Could add steamed fresh asparagus tips, frozen peas right out of the package, or cooked or marinated artichokes. Finely chopped parsley is essential.

Assemble on the day it will be served to keep it fresh looking. Start with refrigerated rice base. Taste and if desired, add vinegar, XVOO, pepper, white wine and a sprinkle of sugar. Sugar flatters the flavor of vegetables and of vinegar. Mix in the things that are sturdy enough to stand up to the mixing: chicken, sausage, ham, scallops, diced bell peppers, diced red onion, frozen peas, etc. Taste again. Salt if necessary. Arrange in a large, shallow bowl or on a platter, preferably glass. Decorate with the ingredients that are most interesting or too fragile to mix: shrimp and/or lobster, asparagus tips, artichokes, hard boiled eggs (halved or quartered), cherry tomatoes (if using), roasted peppers, etc. Sprinkle generously with paprika and finely chopped parsley. Chill until the container and all ingredients are cold or until ready to serve.

Let me know how it works out.

Myriam Smith, June 2002


At 9:29 PM, Blogger the grocer's daughter said...

Thank you Myriam! David makes wonderful (and date impressive) paella. :)

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Jerry said...

says no artichokes if you are drinking wine. Artichokes make wine or anything eaten afterwards taste sweet.

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous David's mother said...

says: I have been given grief off line for including instructions on how to boil an egg! My view was that these eggs are to be cosmetically lovely. A common misstep with eggs is cooking them at too high a temperature and getting an unsightly green ring around the yolk. The "Joy" instructions were included to emphasize the need to keep temperature low for that reason. Strictly speaking, they are "hard cooked," not "hard boiled."

Other bits of eggy wisdom:
1. Very fresh eggs are hard to peel neatly. They should be at least a week old to peel neatly. Fortunately ;-), this is not a problem with supermarket eggs.
2. One doesn't want to crack the egg shell by dropping a cold egg into hot water. Either put cold eggs into cold water or warm (sit in warm water first) eggs into hot water.
3. Do shock the cooked egg by dumping into running cold water. This is supposed to loosen the shell so it can be peeled. Doesn't help much with a very fresh egg.

Simple as hard cooked eggs seem, it is one of those things that are done differently in each shtetl.

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Myriam said...

You are welcome, grocer's daughter. I am sure that in your parents' grocery, the eggs were always fresh. :-)

At 11:31 PM, Blogger nightquill said...

If you boil the sausages before you make the rice the sausage-water is also a good broth base.


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