On Approximating Flavors (Yuka’s Paella Recipe)
Photo: Nervo Xavier Verdezoto
from Ecuador now living in Denmark
I have not yet visited Spain, but I’ve enjoyed paella every time I ordered it at a restaurant. One day, when I invited my friend from France for dinner and asked him what he would like me to serve him, he said “paella”. It was as good a time as any to experimenting with different recipes. I am not fond of buying “uni-task” equipment (like a paella pan) so the recipe I eventually ended up with uses a large cast iron pan. Also not necessary: open fire, strands of saffron, rabbit. I don’t use Arborio rice because Japanese short-grain rice seems to work just as well (and later I was vindicated by reading about a Spanish chef in Spain who was deliberately using sushi rice, because of its higher starch content). This week, I made my version of a faux paella for my Latin friend. He’s from Ecuador, but his relatives live in Barcelona, so when he had his second helping, I figured it was time to share this recipe.
- Rub 5 chicken thighs with slits cut into them with a mixture of 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 teaspoons thyme, 2 teaspoons sea salt, 1 teaspoon chili powder. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Heat a 12-in cast iron pan over medium heat and saute 1-2 chorizo (or any kind of smokey and spicy) sausages, sliced thick, until browned. Remove from the pan into a bowl.
- Add chicken, skin-side down. Brown all sides (leave it in the pan longer than if you were just browning, as they don’t cook that much more with the rice later). Remove and place in the bowl with sausages.
- Add at least 1-2 cups of diced red onions into the pan with one bunch of chopped parsley leaves, and 5 cloves of minced garlic. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper. Sauté for 5-10 min until the onions are cooked.
- Add about 400g of diced tomatoes (about 1 can) into the pan. Sauté for 10 min. or until the moisture from tomatoes have evaporated. Pour 1 cup of white wine and add the chicken, to continue the cooking (but you can keep the sausage slices until the end).
- Add 3 cups of short-grain white rice (grød ris works well in Denmark, or sushi rice) that’s been washed well and has been soaking in water for at least 4 hours (drain before you put it in the pan), and mix. Add 3 cups of seafood stock (I use broth left over from cooking mussels, or you can also use shrimp stock). Add 2 teaspoons turmeric (or some strands of saffron).
- Add an additional cup of stock (I use chicken stock, because I usually don’t have that much seafood stock on hand). Let it simmer for at least 15 min. You may need to add more stock. Check for the rice doneness to your liking.
- Add a cup of frozen green peas (no need to defrost) and the sausage slices, and mix with the rice. Add a pound (about 450g) of peeled and de-veined shrimp. Tuck them into the rice to be cooked. Optional: place some mussels on the half shell on a tray in an oven and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Broil for 2 min. or so.
- If the rice is still not cooked (it should be al dente) then add more stock. Place the mussels on top, and let the liquid evaporate. Turn the heat on high for a minute or two if you want some kogé (Japan), socarrat (Spain), or cocolon (Ecuador), the crispy layer of slightly burned rice (it must be considered tasty in multiple cultures as I found more terms for these delicious bits from other countries).
- Garnish with lemon wedges and sliced green onions or parsley. Bring the cast iron pan to the table (place a cloth or on oven mitt on the handle so you don’t accidentally grab it while it’s still hot).
A rice dish that will keep warm while eating, even during the cold winters of Denmark.