Paella!!! - august 18, 2010
Today was a really good day. It started with a successful drop off of my daughter at her first day of Kindergarten, followed by a chicken fried steak with hash browns and a bloody mary. My 3 year old son had a cheeseburger topped with grape jelly. Then a little bit of back to school shopping, an episode of Sesame Street, an iced coffee at Blue Bottle's sunny Kiosk location, Kindergarten pickup and then a madcap dash through the Castro to Bi-Rite for ice cream, where the salted caramel is absolutely fantastic.
Four new Kindergarteners accompanied me to the ice cream shop, plus four of their younger siblings, four additional parents and three strollers. We set off at a trot through the streets to Dolores Park, where the sun was warm, the grass green and small wiggly dogs numerous. The kids sat still long enough to devour their treats on a low window ledge adjacent to the creamery, and then it was time to go back. It must have been a combination of being sun blind and sugar drunk that made us think that herding twelve people, eight of them under the age of six, back a mile along 18th street was a good idea. But it is important to have adventures.
There was trash to kick and flowers to eat, old people to giggle at and hundreds of front stoops to climb on. Mission High School was there to explore, and so many dank bars to peer into, each spilling its own individual beery stench out onto the sidewalk. There was at least one sex toy shop - "Mama, what's that?!!"..."I'm not sure dear, I think those are decorations" - and a multitude of hair salons, flower shops, cafes, possible medical marijuana clinics and other curiosities along the way.
By the time we arrived home it was after five, hours later than when I'd planned to start dinner, which was to be a great, grand paella to celebrate the day...or maybe just because we'd happened to get peppers from the CSA that week, a key ingredient that we don't have very often. I've been itching to make paella since last summer's Canal House Cooking featured one made outdoors, in the biggest iron pot in the world propped atop cinder blocks over a fire on the grass. As much as I would love to risk burning the neighborhood down, the fog at our house kept us inside and me at the stove. But not for very long, because paella is a remarkably quick dinner to make.
I had no idea, really, that the dish most restaurants ask for extra time to prepare is nearly as easy as boxed mac and cheese. Well, plus a little chopping and slicing here and there. From start to finish it took me forty-five minutes. Thats less time than it took my kids to finish watching their second episode of Sesame Street. If only there was something so wonderful and easy to be made from zucchini and tomatillos.
Paella: (adapted from Canal House Cooking volume 1)
This is really infinitely adaptable, you can change the ingredients and the amounts you use, I think the real soul of the dish is the manner in which it is cooked. This recipe makes enough for four people, but you can easily adapt it to feed more. You don't need to use all of the chicken, just as much as you'd like. Save the rest for stir-fry, and the bones to put in the crockpot overnight with a quartered onion, two celery sticks cut into 3 inch chunks and one carrot cut similarly. Fill the crockpot with water and let it cook on low overnight. In the morning, strain the stock into freezer jars and put them in to freeze once they have cooled.
1 chicken (cut into parts, skinned and chopped into 2-3 inch pieces, lightly salted)
chorizo, a big link or two sliced into bite sized pieces
shrimp or mussels, as many as you want 4-6 per person is probably good
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 red peppers, seeds and membranes removed, sliced into long thin strips
1 clove garlic, chopped
rice (arborio works well, any is probably fine), 3 cups
half bunch parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon pimentón (smoked paprika)
Find the biggest pot you have, preferably cast iron. Put it over medium-high heat on the stove and warm the olive oil. When it is hot (toss in a piece of onion to check, it will sizzle) add the chorizo and chicken pieces. When they are beginning to brown, add the onion and peppers. Let that cook until the onion softens, then add the garlic, parsley and rice. Give it a stir to mix everything together. If your stock is unsalted, add some salt to it (at least a Tablespoon) and the pimentón. Then add about 3/4 of the stock to the rice pot. stirring it a little, but not enough to disturb the bottom layer of rice. It should turn nice and crusty, eventually.
Drop the shellfish on top, then let the paella bubble for about half an hour, or until the rice is tender (that means the crunchiness of raw rice is completely gone). If it gets dry before the rice is tender, add a bit more stock. Once the rice is tender, turn off the heat and cover the pot with clean dish towels. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then serve and eat!