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Paella a la McLean (Rev I)

Awhile back, we had a dinner for eight.  We decided to do Cioppino and had all but filled out our event planner, when The Little Woman saw a write-up on paella in the current Williams-Sonoma catalog.  "You've done cioppino to death, why not do paella?"  "Why not," said I.  (Besides, I thought, maybe I can go buy a paella pan.)  The Little Woman read my thoughts again as she said, "You can use the big roaster pan in the garage instead of one of those special paella pans, which I don't even want to hear about."  So, paella was the dish for that Saturday night.  Not having made it at home, I dug out recipes from four books (Peterson, McClane, Wolfert and Labensky) and bounced them against the school recipe in my Chef's Companion.  Paella, by the way, is a rice dish with meat, fish, shellfish and short grain rice seasoned with paprika and saffron--all cooked and presented in a round shallow pan. 

I then paid special attention to the Seafood Paella recipe in the The Gourmet Cookbook (page 349). The whole article was attractive—the best, by far, of my five references.  It started out with: "True, [paella] is a somewhat daunting project, but you are making a feast," and went on to sing paella's praises. So, while composing my own ingredients list, I decided to follow Gourmet's instructions as a means to judge at least one of its recipes--and a complex one, at that. 

I found the instructions for this dish to be descriptive and detailed.  For example, when boiling the rice on the stovetop prior to baking it in the oven, it said to do so "until the rice appears on the surface about 6 minutes," and then added "spoon should leave a path exposing bottom of pan when pulled through center of rice." I did exactly that:  boiled the rice at high heat for 6 minutes and, lo and behold, the spoon left a nice wide trace on the bottom of my new paella pan.   It called for 5.5 cups of broth for 3 cups of short grain rice, which was right on.  However, I found the recommended baking time to be about 20% short. I also prefer 2.5 cups of rice--more than enough--while using the same amount of broth

So, we did this dish twice in two weeks and I think what follows is about right.  There is a lot of work required to put it together.  The trick is to sauté the main ingredients early on and set them aside (or put them in the fridge if holding them for more than four hours).  With the squid, fish, chicken and sausage done, all that is required then is to fire the onions, pour in the rice and stock, steam the mussels, fit all the goodies in, and get it in the oven about 30 minutes before you want to serve it.  I confess that this is easier said than done.  I was late serving the paella the first time, though it had as much to do with my having fun talking to guests and drinking wine as getting the dish assembled and in the oven in a timely manner.  But I got it right the second time. (As the saying goes: He ain't smart, but he's very observant and highly trainable). 

Serves 8 
See abbreviations, if necessary 
•  8 cups         chicken stock
•  BG                satchel 
•  1.5 lbs           monkfish or grouper, cut to serving size 
•  20                  raw medium shrimp, shelled 
•  ½ lb               squid, cut crosswise for rings 
•  10                  chicken legs, skinned, foot knuckles removed (see notes) 
•  4 links            chorizo 
•  2                    onions, diced 
•  5                  garlic cloves, pureed
•  2.5 cups         short grain Spanish rice is best and traditional (or arborio risotto rice) 
•  big pinch        saffron 
•  2 t                  sweet paprika 
•  1/2t                smoked paprika
•  28 oz              can of diced tomatoes, drained 
• 2 doz               mussels 
•  2 oz                white wine (for the mussels) 
•  3/4 cup           peas (frozen OK) 
•  1 cup              artichoke hearts (canned OK), halved, drained 
•  2                     red peppers, roasted, bite size, square cut 
•  ½ cup             fresh parsley leaves (garnish) 
•   S/P
1.   In saucepan, add BG and stock, BTB and hold at simmer 
2.   In the paella pan or saute pan prepare in seriatim: 
     •  fish , shrimp and squid  (do not over cook)
     •  cut fish into bite sized cubes and transfer all to a warm place or to fridge 
3.   In another pan or on the grill, season and sauté or grill the chicken legs and chorizo, set aside 

4.   In paella pan, add 3T of EVOO and sweat onion and garlic in EVOO 
5.   Add the rice and coat grains 
6.   Add a cup of stock, then saffron, paprika and diced tomato 
7    Add more stock to total about 7 cups (remove BG satchel) 
8.   BTB, then reduce heat and cook rice for about 6 minutes until rice surfaces and spoon leaves trace 
9.   Hold point  (pre-heat oven to 400F)
10.  OO, in another pot, cook mussels in 2 ozs white wine and 2 ozs stock, covered until they open--a few minutes 
11.  On low heat on the stove top: (allow 10 minutes for this step)
      • stir in artichokes, peas, peppers, squid and chorizo 
      • nicely arrange and push in shrimp, fish, chicken and mussels 
      • add those platter juices that taste good 
      • taste again for seasoning
12.  Bake uncovered at 400F for about 25 minutes 
13.  Remove from oven, check for rice doneness, add stock if it's too dry, and it probably will be
14.  Add parsley garnish 
15.  Serve from pan onto heated bowls
Notes:  a.  Chicken leg foot knuckles are removed to save space in the pan (see photos).  A game shears works best. 
Be sure to look for and remove all bone chip.  
b.  A paella pan is ideal, but a big skillet will work quite well. 


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