Tuesday, September 13, 2011

angry paella

Once upon a time while living in Italy, I got so mad that the only thing I could channel my energy in to was cooking. I've never enjoyed cooking, but I fired up the gas stove in Casa Artom and made what will forever be known as angry paella. 

I can't remember where I found the recipe, but I tried in vain to lay my hands on it for months after I got back from Venice, because it was really, really good. Prior to that point, I'm honestly not sure I'd ever cooked a meal, not to mention a good one. 

Eventually I found a recipe that I think gets pretty close to the original. I can't remember where I found that one either (noticing a pattern here?), but here it is, fresh from my recipe box on the ever-useful Epicurious site:

-1 garlic clove, minced
-1 TBS olive oil
-1/2 lb hot or sweet Italian sausage (w/o fennel seeds)
-1/2 lb skinless chicken breast, cut in 1 inch pieces
-1 c (arborio) rice
-1 c onion, chopped
-1 1/2 c chicken broth
-1 (8oz) can stewed chopped tomatoes
-1/2 tsp sweet paprika
-1/8 to 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
-1/8 tsp ground saffron
-1/2 lb medium shrimp
-1/2 c red bell pepper strips
-1/2 c green bell pepper strips
-1/2 c frozen green peas

1. heat the garlic and oil in a large skillet.
2. remove the sausage meat from its casings. add the chicken and sausage to the oil and stir until browned (about 10 min)
3. spoon off all but 1 TBS drippings from the skillet. add the rice and onion. cook, stirring until onion is transparent and rice is lightly browned (about 5 minutes)
4. add the broth, tomatoes and their juice, paprika, red pepper, and saffron. bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. add the shrimp, red and green pepper strips, and peas. cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

I've never actually made it with sausage, chicken, and shrimp all at once. Normally I just make it with chicken and/or shrimp. And although the recipe doesn't specify, I take the chicken out after it's cooked, but before I put the rice and onions in. Because chicken isn't greasy like sausage, I normally splash a little more olive oil in there pre-rice/onions, too. I've often forgotten the tomatoes, sometimes forgotten the garlic, and never have found sweet paprika. What I'm saying here is that it's a pretty forgiving recipe, so long as you get the rice toasting/cooking part right. 

Anyways, I made angry paella last night not because I'm particularly angry right now, but because one of my coworkers wanted to learn how to make it. I also happened to need help moving a new piece of furniture from my car to my bedroom. So, after work, a few coworkers caravanned back to my apartment. We moved furniture, then the boys watched tennis while I taught my friend how to make the dish (and I realized that I make a terrible instructor). 

During last night's paella lesson, I tried a combination of regular and smoky paprika in lieu of sweet, and while I liked the flavor of the smoky paprika, I was a little too heavy handed with it. I also forgot the garlic. What can I say?...I never cook both quickly and well. Regardless, I think the best paella is truly born out of anger, but there were clean plates all around the table, so I'm proof that it's worth giving this a shot, even if you aren't ticked off. 

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