Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

April 18, 2011

Paella, Greatly Simplified

Paella is Spain's national dish par excellence. It originated in the rice fields near Valencia, starting as a simple, outdoor, peasant dish. On a visit to Valencia several years ago, George and I became so enamored with paella, we ended up cooking paella along side the then Spanish paella champion, Chef Frederico Sanjeronimo Gil. Chef Gils’ paella included chicken, rabbit, snails, mussels, broad and lima beans. It took all morning to prepare and was so copious, it could have fed a party of six.

George used to cook paella for friends in Sag Harbor. He became such a pro, we declared him the East End’s paella champion. Now he suggested to prepare a simplified version of paella, using fewer ingredients and a rice cooker.

To give our paella its Spanish due, I served it with a Rioja.


Mixed Salad
Wine: Marqués de Cáceres, Rioja, 2006
Dessert: Chocolate Rugalach


½ lb small shrimps, shells removed
1½ cups fish stock*, or water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced, covered with half of the oil
1 tomato, peeled and cored, coarsely chopped, soaked in the above
1 teaspoon Pimentòn de la Vera
½ package Goya Sazon con Cultnatro y Achiote
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Several red pepper flakes
¾ cup short-grained rice, washed and rinsed several times
2 bay leaves
¼ lb surimi

*I used “Kitchen Basics Original Seafood Cooking Stock” and cooked the removed shrimp shells in it. I then strained the liquid, pressing the shells down to release their moisture. Next I added the garlic, tomato, and spices.

When ready to cook, I put the rice into the rice cooker together with the bay leaves, remaining oil, added the stock, and turned on the machine. When the rice was cooked (after 40 minutes), I adjust the seasoning and spread the rice out on an ovenproof dish. I added the shrimps and surimi, salted the shellfish slightly and dribbled some olive oil over it. To finish, I baked the dish, uncovered, for 5 minutes in the preheated 350 degree oven.

The rice tasted terrific, but we were of two minds about the shrimps. On one hand, the liquid from the shells definitely added to the flavor. On the other hand, the shrimps had zero taste.

“Maybe we should forget about the shrimps and simply add more surimi,” said George. “This is a good dish. Let’s have it again soon.”

No comments: