By Freya Bellin
Certain dishes intimidate me, and paella has always been one of them. It has a level of authenticity about it that makes it rather daunting to try to replicate. However, if you let go of the need to make it perfectly traditional, it turns out to be pretty easy to make delicious paella at home.
I was surprised to find that the recipe calls for neither pimentón nor saffron, both of which I associate with paella. I considered adding a dash of one or the other anyway, but the recipe is right; the dish definitely doesn’t need the extra flavor. The chorizo has a spicy smokiness that pervades the whole dish. Make sure you use the type of chorizo that comes wrapped like salami or a hot dog because you need to be able to dice it. The more sausage-like chorizo will crumble when you cut through the casing. Instead of fresh tomatoes, which are hard to find this time of year, I substituted 1 cup of canned diced tomatoes, and then used the juice from the canned tomatoes instead of 1 of the cups of water.
If you’d rather skip the seafood, this dish will still be great. Being a novice clam steamer, I overcooked mine so they didn’t add much to the paella, but it did highlight how great the rice is even without it. If you’re hungry and just want to dig in, you could skip the last step of toasting the rice, but if you can wait, your patience will be rewarded—the crust at the bottom of the pan is easily the best part of any paella. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Pared-Down Paella with Peas, Clams, and Chorizo
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes
This easy paella is perfect when you don’t want to use the oven. If you can’t find Spanish-style smoked chorizo, or if you’d rather skip the meat, cook the onion, pepper, and garlic with a good sprinkling of pimentón (smoked paprika) or a pinch of saffron. Shrimp, scallops, and mussels are all potential replacements for the clams.
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces Spanish chorizo or other smoked sausage, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup long-grain brown rice
Salt and black pepper
1 ripe tomato, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 pounds littleneck or other hard-shell clams, well scrubbed, those with broken shells discarded
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
1. Put the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns translucent, 3 to 5 minutes more.
2. Stir in the rice, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the rice is glossy and completely coated with oil, just a minute or 2. Add the tomato and 2 cups water. Stir, adjust the heat so that the liquid boils steadily but not violently, and cover.
3. Cook for 30 minutes before checking for doneness; add a little water if the rice is dry but not yet tender. Cover and cook until the rice is just done and the liquid is absorbed, another 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the peas and the clams, replace the lid, and continue cooking until the clams are open, 3 to 5 minutes (if any don’t, you can open them with a butter knife). If you want a crunchy crust of toasted rice to form at the bottom of the pan (soccarat), uncover the pot and turn the heat up so the rice sizzles. Cook, without stirring, until you can smell the rice toasting (but not burning), then turn off the heat. Remove the clams from the shells and return them to the pot if you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning and toss. Serve, garnished with parsley and lemon wedges.