Her blog the other day was about paella, arguably Spain's most famous dish. I'd only made it once before after I'd bought my supremely versatile Le Creuset casserole from TJ Maxx and hadn't attempted it since. I remember making it on a Sunday and it stretched into a time consuming kitchen adventure, the kind where people are sitting around wondering, "Why isn't it ready yet? Does he know what he's doing?" Incidentally, you may be tempted to think you need a "paella pan" to make this dish, but this is just not so. Tyler Florence has said that he uses his roasting pan--the one that most of us only dust off for the Thanksgiving turkey--when he's making paella for a crowd (which is what I will use when preparing this dish for company, as I look forward to doing soon). And I was served paella in Miami in a cast iron skillet, so any of your favorite, wide saute pans is a good choice. (I will admit that I bought my LC pan envisioning paella but this pan is well worth its cost and has become one of my most versatile kitchen pieces. I use it regularly for braising, poaching, sauteing, roasting, etc., even though at this point it's only been used for paella twice.)
Kim's recipe, appropriated from mega-chef Jose Andres (his restaurants include DC hotspots Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico, Oyamel, and Zaitinya) is simple enough even for a weeknight if you're not overly carnivorous. Besides, I'd been wanting to try making paella anyway because I took a vegetarian cooking class over the summer in which the main dish for the evening was a vegetarian paella. Incorporating some of the elements from that paella, I took the liberty of sauteing a bell pepper and an onion before cooking the garlic. Because I had in my freezer shrimp, sea scallops, and chorizo, I knew that I could use those in place of/in addition to some of the ingredients in Kim's recipe. Paella recipes I've seen usually call for browning all manners of protein, including chicken, rabbit, sausage, and various shell fish which can take over an hour, so I knew that limiting myself to only seafood and sausage would take less than ten minutes.
The only odd thing about Sr. Andres's recipe is that it instructs you to cook the shrimp beforehand and then add it back to the liquid so that it ends up being cooked for more than twenty minutes! While the shrimp did not come out rubbery it was certainly well cooked, shall we say. I learned from watching Robin Miller making grilled shrimp with citrus dipping sauce on the Food Network the other day that well cooked shrimp is C shaped, while overcooked shrimp is O shaped. Mine was definitely O shaped but it wasn't completely rubbery. Next time I might just add it raw near the end of cooking the rice so that it remains tender or cook it initially and then just add it at the end to reheat through.
It is critical that you do not stir the rice after it has cooked for the four minutes as Kim exhorts in her instructions. Even though you're using arborio rice, you're not making risotto! Once the ingredients are well combined, the rice has to be immersed in the simmering liquid so that it can absorb the flavorful stock you've made and cook to al dente.
Another critical ingredient in this dish is of course the saffron. Now I'd been using some inexpensive Badia brand saffron that I bought at a Latino market around the corner from me. Never really appreciating what saffron added, I decided to purchase some of the medium grade Spanish Coupé Saffron from my preferred spice vendor, Penzeys. Once again I proved to myself that the quality of the ingredients matters! A half teaspoon of this wonder spice perfumed the dish and the kitchen and made our mouths water! NOW I get it with the saffron! I also recognized it as what I love about bouillabaisse, that delicious seafood stew from Provence. I'm now on the search for other dishes in addition to risotto that use this spice.