Paella My Way
I tried to cook my own version of Paella a couple of days ago and it worked out well (according to the tasters, who were relatives, so they may have been trying to be extra nice). I call this “Paella My Way” because I tried a bunch of variations that are not in regular Paella recipes. I also rarely follow recipes to the tee because most of my cooking exploits sprout out of the blue (due to boredom and watching food shows on tv) and I rarely have all the ingredients needed for the recipe; so I improvise most of the time and tailor the recipe to what I have (I believe improvisation is part of the fun of cooking anyways).
The reason I am documenting this here is because some of my friends (you know who you are!) wanted to see how I cooked Paella so they can also make their own version. Another reason for my documentation is so that I’ll be able to remember what I did in case I wanted to make this again lol. I don’t like writing recipes down because I just tend to lose them so I guess this was the next best thing.
So here is a smattering of pictures that outlines what I had done to make my variation of Paella.
1. Bell pepper preparation – I first cleaned and sliced the peppers since I thought that would be the easiest first step and the least messy of the ingredients to prepare
2. Chicken Preparation – I used a blend of smoked paprika, salt, and garlic powder and rubbed it into some cut up chicken chicken thigh pieces (dark meat all the way!) and let it sit for about 15 minutes to let the chicken absorb some of the flavours.
3. Sautéeing the chicken – I then sautéed the chicken pieces in some olive oil until they were thoroughly cooked and browned. I then set them aside.
4. Shrimp preparation – I had bought shrimp with the heads still on so I separated the heads from the body. I used the heads to make some stock to flavour the rice while I used the bodies to mix in with the rice. I did not bother peeling the shrimp because the shrimp peel would also add flavour as it cooked with the rice (in other words, I was lazy).
5. I sautéed the shrimp bodies in the leftover oil from the chicken until they were cooked and pink and they were set aside.
6. I sautéed the squid rings until they were cooked and they were set aside; I had bought frozen squid rings, so minimal preparation was necessary (just thawing and rinsing)
7. Preparing the shrimp stock – I sautéed the shrimp heads along with a couple pieces of ginger root and a bit of garlic powder until they were pink and cooked. I then added about 8 cups of water and let it boil for a good 30 minutes to get all the flavour out; I also added salt and pepper to taste. (I like to use ginger in making stocks because it gives the stock a bit of spicy flavour and it also gives it a nice aroma).
Most Paella recipes usually call for a Spanish sausage called chorizo; however, I did not know where to buy/acquire chorizo so I just opted for another type of sausage, which was “臘腸” or chinese sausage. I figured it would be somewhat similar since its basically a fatty pork sausage; I just added a bunch of paprika afterwards to offset the lack of paprika of the chinese sausage.
Ingredients list picture (well, most of the stuff that I had used anyways). Starting from the top left corner going clockwise: 2 onions (diced) with 5 cloves of garlic (minced), 5 cups of arborio rice, sliced chinese sausage, sliced bell peppers, 1 can of tomato paste, a couple of sliced tomatoes ( I used plum tomatoes), sautéed paprika chicken, paprika, sautéed shrimp, frozen peas, and sautéed squid.
And of course, last but not least, the saffron (there must have been about $8 worth of saffron in that tiny bowl).
8. I sautéed the chinese sausage in a tiny amount of oil to render out the fat. Once the fat had been rendered, I added the onion, garlic, paprika and tomatoes and cooked them until they were tender.
I had used a dutch oven to cook the Paella instead of a Paella pan because I did not have a Paella pan and I even if I did, I would not have a burner that would be big enough to cook with that pan. I figured a dutch oven would be a great substitute since I can just finish off the Paella in the oven without the fear of burning the rice at the bottom of the pan.
9. Once the vegetables were tender, I added the tomato paste and kept sautéeing.
10. After the addition of the tomato paste, I added the rice and mixed it throughly with the other ingredients. I also added a bit more oil to thoroughly coat all the grains of rice with oil and kept sautéeing for about 10 more minutes.
11. While the rice was sautéing, I placed the saffron in the shrimp stock and let it soak for a couple of minutes in order for the flavour and colour to come out; I then add the saffron-tinged stock to the rice mixture (I added about 6-7 cups of stock for 5 cups of rice).
12. I added half of the bell peppers, along with the chicken and squid into the rice mixture. When the mixture had come to a simmer, I covered the pot and placed in a 400 degree F oven for about 30 minutes
13. After 30 minutes, I took the pot out of the oven (the rice was already cooked) and placed the remaining bell peppers, frozen green peas, and shrimp on top; I covered the pot and placed it back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
14. Once the bell peppers, frozen green peas and shrimp have heated through, I took the pot out of the oven and scattered lemon wedges on top.
15. I then enjoyed my big pot of Paella (probably the most important step of all!)
I was planning to take out-of pot pictures of the Paella so the soft gooey orange rice could be seen better, but hunger and exhaustion won over!