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Spanish Paella

Cooking a paella, a Spanish rice dish, is simpler than you might think and it allows for a lot of creativity. Paellas are often named according to either the region they are typical of (i.e. a Paella Valenciana would be a rice dish typical of Valencia) or the ingredients they have (i.e. a Paella de Marisco would be a seafood rice dish, whereas a Paella del Monte would have chicken, beef, lamb and/or pork.) You can also be creative in the vegetables that you add, and as you’ll see in the pictures of this one, I was leaning heavily on the green veggies.

A few tips before we begin:

Rice: there are many different types of rice, including short grained, long-grained, wild rice, brown rice,  and Jasmin rice.

-Both the type of rice you use and the way you cook it affect how ‘sticky’ it will ultimately be. Longer grains tend not to be as sticky as shorter grains. Multiple rinses before cooking (also called ‘washing’ the rice) as well as stirring frequently during cooking are mechanical processes that add ‘stickiness’ to even generally non-sticky rice. I prefer looser rice so the instructions I give below will reflect that, and can be modified if you prefer a more stickier finished product.

-Most Spanish recipes use only one type of rice, but the recipe I’m illustrating in these pictures is a mixture of jasmine, wild and red rice.

-Generally, about 1/3 cup of uncooked rice is one serving of cooked rice. If you are adding a lot of other ingredients, you may want to use that ratio as your guide, but if you are not, or if your guests tend to eat a lot, you may want to increase the amount of rice per person.

Paellas are cooked in two distinct steps, and the process can be stopped between the two steps with no harm to the final dish. I will refer to these as the first and second steps, just to keep things simple.

Ingredients (for about 4 servings)

-½ medium onion, finely chopped
-1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used canola, some prefer olive oil)
-6 slices of ham (I used lunchmeat, but you can use any meat— either raw or this is a great place to use left-over chicken, turkey, pork, beef. If you are using raw meat, cook it thoroughly before beginning this recipe. If you are using seafood, you can cook it with the sauté mixture as it does not require as much time to cook.
-1 cup Jasmin rice
-1/3 cup wild +red rice (mixed)
-1 1/3 chicken bouillon cube
-1 cup chopped mixed veggies (I used asparagus and broccoli for this recipe)
-Water (double the volume of rice used, so in this case, 2 2/3 cups)

Directions:

Step 1:

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I used lots of fresh greens in this paella.

Place the oil in a large, shallow pan. Turn on medium heat and add all of the ingredients except the water. (The picture on the left shows what this looked like when I first put everything in the pan.)

Continue “stir-frying”, mixing frequently, until the onion is golden, the veggies become a little limp and the rice begins to brown.

At this point you can either turn off the stove and save this mixture to finish later, or proceed directly to step 2. (I used to prepare this part before I went to work in the morning, and then finish with Step 2 when I got home in the evening.)

Step 2:

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You can see the water left when you gently push the rice aside. (BTW, this is from a different paella.)

(if the mixture from step 1 has cooled, heat over low fire, stirring frequently, until it heats up again.)

Add 2 and 2/3 cups water to the hot mixture, stir once to achieve an even mixing, and then leave on medium to low heat and allow to cook, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes. Do not stir at all during this time. When the water level drops below the rice, you can use a spoon or spatula to gently move some of the rice away from the edge of the pan, and continue to monitor its evaporation until there is no more water. (Picture on right.) Once the water is completely gone, remove from heat and cover.  Allow to rest for about 10 minutes, and then serve.  (The picture below is the finished product.)

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Enjoy!

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