Sunday, February 19, 2012

Words & Images
What’s cooking? Paella Fina

In my commercial writing days, I worked for years in partnership with a wonderfully talented graphic designer named Barbara Fina. It’s a great gift to be able to enjoy your work, and I truly believe the flow of ideas back and forth inspired each of us in ways that would not have been possible on our own. I learned a lot from Barbara about typefaces and visual balance, about the value of white space, and the nuance of tiny differences in line or color.

And even as I much prefer essay writing to the commercial stuff, I miss those days. True collaboration – where each person feels equally valuable – is such magic. And the thrill of reaching beyond what you thought you could do is a high that feels like soaring.

Barbara has moved in a different direction as well, now in interior design. Which allowed us to collaborate one more time, on my condo in Jersey City. And her firm, Fina Design, was recently featured in Westchester Home.

One thing we still have in common is that we’re both foodies. She’s a little more aggressive than I am in terms of creating her own recipes. According to Barbara, “I built this recipe after traveling around Spain for two months, from Bilbao to San Sabastian to Barcelona and from Sevilla to Marbella and Granada, eating paella wherever I went.” Maybe it’s the artist in her needing a blank canvas.

Barbara’s Paella Fina
Serves 4-6.

3 tbsp olive oil
½ cup finely diced white onion
2-3 links chorizo sausage, sliced thinly in disks
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into finger-sized slices
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole red bell pepper, medium diced or finely julienned (it’s a look)
2 cups Arborio or Valencia rice
3 cups dry or semi-dry white wine
3-4 cups good quality chicken stock
1 cup diced whole tomatoes (San Marzano or other good quality canned)
2 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons saffron threads
1 Tablespoon paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper

12 small- to medium-sized cleaned mussels
12 littleneck clams
1 pound jumbo shrimp (20-25/lb), cleaned and deveined, tails left on
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
1 cup frozen peas (these go in at the very end when the shellfish go in)
optional: 1 whole zucchini, shredded coarsely
4 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

small lemon wedges or slices for garnish

In a large, flat paella pan or sauté pan, sauté onions in 2 Tbl of the olive oil over medium heat until lightly caramelized (about 7 mins). Add half the garlic and all of the chorizo. Sauté for 2 minutes more, then remove from pan and set aside in a large bowl.

To the same pan, add the remaining 1 Tbl olive oil and the chicken. Sauté without turning for 2 minutes on medium, then turn the pieces over, add the other half of the garlic, and sauté until just cooked, probably another 2 minutes. Add red pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove contents of pan to join onions and chorizo in bowl.

Deglaze the pan with the wine, and add the tomatoes, bay leaves, paprika and rice, stirring until all are mixed. Bring the mixture to simmer.

Once the rice has absorbed the wine, begin adding the chicken stock a cup at a time, stirring often, and allowing each cup to be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Toward the end of this process, add the saffron (I put it in toward the end to get the most of its flavor). Check mixture for salt and pepper.

Kitchen Goddess note: If you want to prepare part of the dish ahead, cook to this point and finish just before serving. The rest of the ingredients can overcook easily, so it’s important to get the rice nearly done before adding them.

When the rice is ready, add back the chicken/chorizo mix. Stir thoroughly and add artichokes, zucchini (optional), peas, shrimp, and clams. Stir the entire mixture to incorporate flavors. Cover and let cook for 2 minutes. Then add the mussels and parsley. Cover again and cook just until all shellfish have opened, about 3 minutes. Discard any shellfish that do not open. Do not overcook. Stir again to incorporate flavors. Let the paella rest off the burner for 2 minutes. If you need to, you can cover it and let it sit for half an hour.

When ready to serve, arrange a few of the shellfish attractively on top of the rice mixture. Arrange lemon as garnish on top and serve.

Serve with a green salad and nice crusty bread.

1 comment:

  1. OMG. I don't want to make this. I want YOU to make this and invite me over.