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Paella? Bring the big pan

By Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 19, 2003

There are many variations on paella, but the essential trinity is rice, saffron and seafood.

Clams can take the place of mussels, chicken pieces are common, and sausage often bulks up the flavor.

The biggest challenge is to make sure you have a wide, shallow pan that is large enough to hold the ingredients. It's necessary to have a wide surface because the shellfish should cook on top quickly.

The larger the hot surface area, the faster the seafood cooks. You don't want to make paella in a deep stock pot and be forced to stir a lot. That would break up the rice and eventually the seafood. A large skillet or wok will work if you don't have an authentic paella pan.

Paella is great for dinner parties because it serves a lot of people and looks impressive when it comes to the table.

Serve it with a grenache-based rose from southern France or a Spanish rosada, crusty bread and a green salad.


4 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

4 ounces chorizo sausage, cut into pieces

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves cut into 1-inch cubes

1 12-ounce package uncooked arborio rice

5 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 pinch saffron

Salt to taste

Ground black pepper to taste

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup frozen green peas

12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded

1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

8 slices lemon, for garnish

Heat olive oil in paella pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and pepper; cook and stir for a few minutes. Add chorizo sausage, diced chicken and rice; cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in 31/2 cups stock, wine, thyme and saffron. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes; stir occasionally.

Taste the rice to see if it is cooked. If uncooked, stir in 1/2 cup more stock. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally.

Stir in additional stock if necessary, up to 5 cups total. Cook until rice is done.

Stir in tomatoes and peas. Cook for 2 minutes. Arrange prawns and mussels on top. Cover with foil and leave for 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove the foil, and scatter parsley over the food. Serve in paella pan, garnished with lemon wedges.

Serves 6.


Vegetarian Paella

1/4 cup olive oil

1-1/4 cup long-grain brown rice

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 pinch saffron

3 cups light vegetable stock or water

Zest of 1/2 lemon


Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound washed and trimmed leeks, cut into 1-inch lengths

1/4 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup black olives or more

Parsley, chopped to garnish

Assorted nuts (optional)

Heat the oil in a large, deep pan. Add the rice and onion, and stir until the rice is coated and begins to turn opaque.

Add the garlic, saffron, stock or water, lemon rind, salt and pepper. Mix well, then bring to a boil. Mix again to distribute the saffron coloring.

Arrange the vegetables and olives attractively on top of the rice. Bring to a boil.

Cover with a lid or foil and simmer for 45 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve straight from the pan. May be served with blanched almonds, slivered Brazil nuts or whole cashew nuts separately for garnishing.

Serves 6.


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