Prosperous Paella

…inspired by my dear old friend Jack Valero who makes Paella in the Park every year honoring the legacy of his dear father.

Paella was originally a poor peasant meal of flavored rice with very little in the way of hearty ingredients. We were shocked by the copious piles of subtly flavored rice with only flecks of meat or sea food we were served all over Spain claiming to be the authentic Paella. Here is what we like to do at home…

1 c. white Basmati rice
2 c. chicken stock
1 onion
1 big ripe tomato
1 whole shallot
Roasted red peppers – I like the raw and the roasted kind, just get
your favorite kind and add to taste.
Seasoned salt
Chili pepper flakes
Saffron threads
Chicken thighs
Shrimp either raw, with or without shells or even cooked is ok
Turkey sausage
Artichoke hearts
Frozen peas

Set everything out before cooking. The whole paella cooks in 20 minutes, the length of time it takes for the rice to cook.

First make the Sofrito. Using a food processor pulse the onion, tomato with the seeds, shallot, red peppers and seasonings. In a big wide frying pan, sauté all slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes. Let it thicken a bit. Do not add saffron to this stage.

Meanwhile, heat some oil in another frying pan. Add the chicken thighs and brown them until they are golden. Reserve. Brown the sausage lightly. Reserve. Now for the shrimp: If using raw with shells, just add them in the last 3 minutes of cooking. If you shell the shrimp, do this: add the shells to the chicken stock, see below. If using cooked shrimp, add to warm before serving.

Add the chicken stock to your wide frying pan where you have just cooked your Sofrito to thicken a bit. Leave some juice in your Sofrito. You don’t want a dry Paella. Even though it is traditional, a moist Paella tastes so much better. Add the stock. Add the shrimp shells to the stock if you are brave enough – they add great depth of flavor. Remember to remove them before serving. Bring to a simmer. Add the saffron to taste. Add the rice to the pan. Add the chicken and sausage. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Once the rice, chicken and sausage is cooked, about 20 minutes, add the marinated artichoke hearts, the shrimp, the frozen peas (unthawed) and let it rest for five minutes before serving. If you want an extra Spanish element to the dish, try cooking over high heat at the end to caramelize the rice at bottom of the pan. It will get crusty, called Soccart.

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