Sunday, September 16, 2012

Daring Cooks Challenge September, 2012- Make Paella!

Our Daring Cooks’ September 2012 hostess was Inma of la Galletika. Inma brought us a taste of Spain and challenged us to make our very own delicious Paella!

Valencia, Spain is the city that brought paella to the world. The dish takes its name from the large, round pan in which it is cooked. Actual Valencian paella features an interesting ingredient list consisting of rabbit, duck, and land snails and was originally simmered over an open fire, fueled by orange branches and pine conesThe protein ingredients coalesced with saffron colored rice resulting in a smoky, aromatic infusion. 

Paella mixta is the popular Spanish adaptation where seafood, yoked with various meats, cooks together with short grain rice. Numerous variations exist, each boasting flavorfully unique ingredients which lend to slight differences in paella making. The possibilities are endless, but uniform, all with the aim of bringing forth an extravagant Spanish rice casserole.

I actually made paella mixta for the first time, several years ago as per a recipe I saw on Food Network. Over the years that recipe has been added on to and experimented with, and a new one emerged no longer bearing resemblance to its FoodTV counterpart . With that, I now know The Paella that works well with my family and delivers impressive results without spending much time in front of the stovetop.

When I heard this month's DC challenge was paella, I was in a Catch-22 sort of moment. Was it my best option to use the recipe on the challenge page or maybe go with one of the many tried, tested and traditional types? Should I commence with my cop-out and face possible paella sacrilege? Dilemma mania ensued resulting in very delayed decision making. Decision making that led to a challenge post two days past due.
So here I was, pressed for time, deciding to run to the recipe I've fiddled with and tweaked through the years, The Trustworthy One, that saved me on countless occasions and is easier than pie (yes, definitely).
In a concise amount of time, it emerges in all  it's intoxicating glory. This, mightily owing to the rice I use; unconventional, quick basmati, which replaces its parboiled, fluffier and longer cooking Spanish cousin, bomba. 

With flavors kept to my liking, alongside ingredients accurate to paella nature, I was able to maintain the integrity of my plentifully studded rice subject. Spice and saffron infused seafood paella with chicken and ground chorizo could very well be a version of the traditional Spanish sustenance guided a tiny bit by my Indian palate, evocative of my native biriyani.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ c chopped medium onion
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • ½ lb chorizo sausage, pieced and cut free of the sausage skin
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts diced 
  • 1 c chopped bell pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 3 c. basmati
  • 3 cups chicken broth (warmed)
  • 2 ¾ c water (warmed)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt to flavor
  • 2-3 saffron threads *
  • 1 lb  jumbo shrimp (prawns), cleaned & deveined
  •  3-4 medium lobster tails, cut into thirds
  • ½ lb pound little neck clams, scrubbed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp red chili powder(cayenne)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • ½ c frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 springs of parsley
  • lemon wedges
To make a good picture I threw in my cooked clams with raw lobster tails- oops! 

  • In a paella pan or wide, metal  pan, heat oil,  add onions, garlic, sausage and chicken. Saute until meats are done.
  • Add bell peppers and fry a minute.
  • Mix in tomatoes.
  • Add in rice, lightly fry with ingredients. 
  • With heat on high, pour in broth, water, lemon juice and salt.
  • Bring rice mixture to a rolling boil. Stir in saffron.
  • Reduce heat to medium- low, cover and allow to cook.
  • In the meantime, season shrimp, lobster, and clams with salt, pepper, chili powder.
  • In a separate skillet, over high heat, fry shrimp in oil for 5-6 minutes, per side. Take out and keep aside.
  • Sear lobster pieces on both sides, 4-5 minutes. Keep aside.
  • Lower to medium heat and stir in clams and cover with lid, until they open up in their own steam (discard unopened clams).
  • Take off heat.
  • Once rice mixture has absorbed all liquid, sprinkle in peas and mix once more. 
  • Top with shrimp, lobster pieces and clams.
  • Increase heat to high and cover paella for 2-3 minutes, careful not to burn, but to brown the bottom for a golden rice crust, commonly known as socarrat.
  • Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
For saffron, I mix in strands with a tablespoon of warm milk to extract the flavor and color, and then stir in.
Though Spanish bomba or other short grained, parboiled rice varieties are used in paella, I am partial to the flavor and vibrant aroma of basmati rice, a brilliant and quicker alternative, in my opinion.

Paella purists' may argue on the authenticity of the paella I've composed here, which probably won't hold bona fide legal in the most obscure competion. Though, I did make right in keeping with tradition at the conclusion of the meal. Even before it hit the dinner table, our paella was duly devoured straight from the pan, with four greedy forks doving deep in, trying to piece off some exquisite socarrat. Which if I have my facts straight, is the only way to eat it.

Behind time again on my September challenge post- to my fellow Daring Cooks, I truly apologize.

Thanks Inma for this fun challenge, enabling us to transport the bright, bold and beautiful flavors of Spain to our kitchens.
 Keep your eyes fixed on Him and your faith will hold strong ~
"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”Matthew 21:22 (ESV)


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much Andy- a fun challenge it was!

    2. I'm with you in going for an easier but still authentically tasty version.

    3. Yes, easier is the way to go- thanks Claudia!

  2. Your paella looks stunning my friend, simple and delicious :)

    Choc Chip Uru

    1. Thank you, G. Uru, your comments make me actually believe it was truly stunning ;)

  3. Ur strong affinity to bible verses is commendable.I feel so alive,eneregtic reading it.Thanks!keep going!

    It's rare


    1. Thank you Liz, what you've said here has encouraged me so! My daily feeding and encouragement comes from Scripture, so like you I am made alive through it. This blog conveys not only my love of food, but an opportunity to share His great love. He came that we" may have life, and have it to the full." God bless you.

  4. Tisa, Your paella looks wonderful, which Foodnetwork recipe did you start with? I would like to know, I use Tyler Florence's recipe. I wonder have you tried it before with rabbit, my husband keeps asking me to give that a go! Regardless we too will be having more paella in the future in our home.

    1. Hello Kim, yes , if I'm not mistaken it was an episode of Tyler's (not sure if it was the "Ultimate"). Anyway, all the ingredients were steamed with the rice and required lots more work, I thought ;)) I don't know if anyone will try rabbit in my home, I am actually inclined to make it with one day. Maybe throw it in and just say its chicken ;-D Thanks for your inspiring comment and thoughts .

  5. This looks such a tasty and colorful paella! Beautiful pictures as well!

  6. wow Tisa, lot of cooking going on here.. very colourful dish and beautiful snaps.. me still in the holiday mood... keep cooking

    1. Thank you Reshmi. Missed you, really glad your back, my blogger friend :))


Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!