Sunday, October 18, 2015

Rick's Chicken and Shellfish Paella

My seminary classmate Carlos Diaz gave us a paella pan and the Time-Life Cooking of Spain cookbook for a wedding present. That was forty years ago and paella has been a mainstay of my kitchen for special events. I made one last night for a family birthday.
The original Time-Life recipe was a lovely Valencia style paella with some not very authentic ingredients such as lobster. Paella was originally a humble peasant dish of saffron infused rice with whatever fresh vegetables and fish or game that was available.
This elaborate Valencia style paella is the one most Americans know from restaurants. This is my take on it with four decades of my tweaks. It is pretty labor intensive, but a fun project in the kitchen, and the results are unfailingly crowd-pleasing. Serves six with generous portions.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil divided
1 Spanish (yellow) onion, chopped
1 garlic glove, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, halved, cored and cut in ¼ inch wide strips about 2 inches long.
1 large ripe tomato, cored and chopped
1 link sausage (Spanish chorizo is authentic, but I use Andouille) cut in ¼ inch rounds
1 boneless pork chop, trimed of fat, and cut in ½ inch cubes
6 chicken pieces (legs and thighs) cut in half
12 small littleneck clams
12 mussels
12 uncooked large shrimp with shells on
3 cups short grain rice (Arborio works fine if you can’t find Spanish)
1 Tsp saffron
1 Tsp smoked paprika
2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
6 cups of water
Peel the shrimp, retaining the shells. Put the shells into a pot with six cups of water, and bring to a boil, then keep it at a light simmer while you work on the recipe.
Salt and pepper the chicken. Put 1 TB olive oil in a 12 inch non-stick frying pan and brown half the chicken, adjusting the heat so it browns nicely but doesn’t burn. Remove the browned chicken to a plate and brown the other half, then put it on the plate. Brown the sausage in the pan, and then put it on a plate over a paper towel.
The next step is to make what the Spanish call a sofrito. To do this place the remaining olive oil in the pan and brown the diced pork over high heat stirring constantly. Then add the garlic, onion, tomato and red pepper strips to the pan and stir constantly until most of the liquid is boiled off and the mixture is firm enough to hold its shape on a spoon.
For the next step you need a big oven-proof pan, at least 14 inches wide and a couple of inches high. I use of well-seasoned 14 inch cast iron pan. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
Drain the shrimp stock into another pot and top off with water to make six cups if needed. Bring it back to a boil. Grind the saffron with a mortor and pestle.
Place the sofrito mixture, the rice, and the six cups of the boiling shrimp stock into the big pan, add the saffron and smoked paprika. Pour a little boiling water into the mortar to get the last bit of saffron. Bring it all to a boil over high heat stirring constantly, and as soon as it boils turn off the heat.
To construct the paella place the chicken, sausage, and shrimp into the rice mixture. Place the clams and mussels in the rice with their open ends up. Sprinkle the peas over the top.
Place the paella in the oven and cook it for 25 minutes. Then check the rice and if necessary cook it for another five minutes. Remove the paella from the oven and place it on a trivet on the table. Cover it with a clean dish towel for ten minutes and serve.
I serve a Rioja or other tempranillo based Spanish red with this, but you could also serve an Alborino or other Spanish white.
(Photo by R.L. Floyd, 2015)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Salade niçoise

As the weather warms up it’s time for a hearty dinner salad. Some friends of ours served us a lovely salade niçoise a few weeks ago and then last week I was at a bistro in Boston and one of my dining companions ordered a good-looking one. It seemed as if it was calling to me to make it since it has been a long time, and I knew I had some nice cooked French beans and some cooked Yukon gold potatoes leftover from a supper a couple of days ago. So the only thing I actually had to cook were the hard-boiled eggs. There are nearly endless variations of this. Here’s mine:
The Ingredients
A few leaves of washed lettuce or other greens (I used Romaine since I had some)
1 can of good quality oil-packed tuna, drained

Some cooked small potatoes such as Yukon Gold sliced.
About 8 good quality canned anchovy fillets, rinsed and drained
½ cup good black olives, such as (duh) niçoise, or kalamata
8 oz. cooked French beans (haricot verts) or green beans
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
Thinly sliced red onion (or scallions)
Coarsely chopped good fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes halved
Capers and fresh herbs (parley, basil or tarragon are nice) for garnish
Some sliced radishes for color (I didn't have any)
The Vinaigrette
4 TBS red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (French evoo is nice if you can find it and afford it)
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
½ TBS Dijon mustard
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS finely chopped parley
Putting it together
Whisk the dressing ingredients and put it aside. Assemble the salad on a platter starting with the greens, the tuna, the potatoes, the beans, the egg slices, the onion, the tomatoes, the anchovies, the capers and herbs. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, a few turns of the pepper mill, and serve.
It’s a meal on a plate. Get yourself some good bread, some Provençal rosé and “Robert est votre oncle!”
(Photo: © R. L. Floyd, 2015)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Veal chops with mushroom Marsala sauce

I saw these beautiful veal loin chops at my local market. One of my wife’s go-to meals in a good Italian restaurant is veal Marsala, which is made from very thin scallops of veal. Why not use these same wonderful flavors for chops? This recipe is for two, but it can be easily doubled.
2 TBS unsalted butter (divided)
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 veal loin chops, about an inch thick.
Flour for dredging.
8 OZ white button mushrooms, quartered.
¾ cup dry Marsala wine.
½ cup beef stock
Salt and pepper.
Start heating a no-stick pan over high heat. While you heat the pan dry the chops with paper towels and salt and pepper them. When the pan is hot add 1 TBS olive oil and 1 TBS butter.
When the butter and oil foam, dredge the chops in flour, and put in pan. You want to brown them but not burn them. When they are a golden brown remove to a plate and put in your mushrooms and saute’ them until they give up their juices. Splash in the Marsala and the stock, stir and keep them simmering for a minute or two to reduce a little.
Return the chops to the pan and cover. Turn down the heat. You want a gentle simmer to finish cooking the chops. Depending on the thickness of your chops and the heat source this will take between 8 and 12 minutes. You can flip them over about half way through.
When they are done remove them to a plate. Turn up the heat and reduce the sauce for a few minutes until it thickens a bit and is almost syrupy. Turn the heat off and add the remaining TBS of butter and stir. When it is blended into the sauce pour it over the chops and serve.
I served this over buttered noodles with a tossed green salad and a nice red wine from Italy.