Monday, October 22, 2012

Darryl Paulsen’s Spanish Paella

Listen up, fellow cooks! This evening’s Presidential debate marks what may well be a pivotal event in next months US election. Because the subject of the debate is foreign policy, what better way to watch the televised dust-up than with this Spanish Paella? Spain qualifies as safely exotic and “foreign.” It has a Romance language with easy-to-understand words such as “Adios, amigo.” It has plenty of sun and good food. It’s critical that the Presidential candidates not make any gaffes on foreign policy (or anything else) this evening. 

Take the word “Paella,” for example. Its actually pronounced “Pie-yay-yah.” Knowing that could win over any undecided voter, especially if a foreign affairs question about Spain catches either candidate flat-footed and open-mouthed. 

Everyone knows it’s hard to sound smart all the time - especially when the whole world is watching. Difficult questions can trip up even the best and the brightest of us.

Remember, guys: “Pie-yay-yah.” You don’t want to sound stoo-pid. 

Darryl Paulsen
Home Chef Extraordinaire!
Now to our Paella! Today’s guest cook is Darryl Paulsen of Anacortes, Washington. Darryl learned how to prepare Paella in Vallencia, Spain, so his delicious recipe couldn’t be more authentic! I yearned to make Paella for years, but felt intimidated that the traditional pan is larger than a hubcap on a Hummer. Darryl taught me that you don’t always need a huge pan - a good-sized, oven-proof skillet does just fine! Darryl’s pan measured 12 in. in diameter and 2 in. deep - large enough for six generous servings.

Darryl should have been a TV pitchman: As I watched him cook, he occasionally held products up, pointing to their brand name and saying: “Everybody should use this!” or “There’s no better paprika!” If you don’t have exactly the brand of Spanish rice he used or exactly his Spanish paprika, make this recipe, anyway. If you want to buy those brands and can’t source them at your local supermarket, order them through

Cooking is a family affair in the Paulsen household. Darryl owes his culinary success to Judy, his wife of nearly 20 years, who encourages him to spend time in the kitchen. Judy owes her life of leisure to Darryl, who takes her up on it. Even Mandy, the Paulsens dog, tries to get involved, hopeful of assisting with the clean-up. To Mandy’s chagrin, Darryl rarely drops anything on the floor.

Darryl Paulsen’s Spanish Paella:

3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces 
Pinch of kosher salt, to taste
Coarsely ground pepper, to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed (Darryl uses lemon-pressed olive oil)
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
4 miniature sweet peppers, finely chopped 
1 garlic clove, finely chopped 
½-to-1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
2 oz. (60 mL) white wine
3 large chorizo sausages made with Spanish-style smoked paprika (total weight, about 6 oz. or 170 g)
2 c. arborio rice (Darryl uses Calasparra-brand rice from Spain)
One 14-½ oz. (398 mL) can diced tomatoes with juice
About 1 qt. (1 L) chicken broth, as needed (Darryl also adds a little Better than Bouillon-brand chicken concentrate, for extra flavor)
1 tsp. saffron
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves 
1 tbsp. finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
A handful of frozen green peas, to add color
1 lb. (454 g) large, raw prawns, shelled, deveined, and butterflied (see Further Note)
12-to-15 butter clams, in the shell
Extra-virgin olive oil, as required for garnish 

Measure and Prepare All Ingredients Before Starting: 

Chop onions, peppers and garlic together (see Note). Slice sausages into bite-sized chunks. Rinse arborio rice in sieve until water runs clear (Darryl didn’t rinse his rice; I prefer to). Strip thyme and parsley leaves from stems, chopping leaves together to make about 1 tbsp. each; discard stems. You are now ready to begin!

Standard Paella pan: Darryl used a much smaller skillet!

Have all ingredients measured, trimmed, and ready.

Darryls plug for Better-Than-Bouillon: Great in mashed
 he says. And in rice! says Judy.
No, Dollinks, no ones being paid to say this!

Darryl stems fresh thyme ...
And parsley leaves.

He chops sweet onions ...

And an equal amount of miniature sweet peppers.

He uses sweet, smoked Spanish paprika.

And large, fresh or frozen prawns ...

Which he butterflies. The traditional clams come later.

He slices chorizo sausage into chunks ...

And chops the chicken thighs.
The cutting board gets a thorough scrub after this!

Saffron goes into this dish ...

As well as arborio rice from Spain.

Darryls Paella requires 2 oz. of wine: 
We require more!

Darryl uses the Agrumato brand of 
olive oil, available on or at 

Judy: Ready to assist at a moment's notice!

Mandy wanted to help, too - but 
missed the opportunity.

To Prepare the Paella:

Preheat oven to 325-to-350 deg. F., depending on your pan size.
Heat the olive oil on medium-high. This versatile
skillet goes from stove-top to oven to table.

Lightly season chicken thighs, sautéing in extra-virgin olive oil until no “pink” remains. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Deglaze pan with white wine. 

Sauté seasoned chicken in olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add onions, peppers, and garlic together with paprika, sautéing until onion appears translucent and peppers are softened. 
The aroma will drive you wild! 
Add chorizo sausage, cooking 3-to-4 min. to concentrate flavors. Stir in arborio rice, coating grains with olive oil-pepper mixture. Return chicken to pan. Add canned tomatoes with juice, a little broth and bouillon concentrate, finely chopped herbs, and saffron (see Note). 

Judy busies herself outside the kitchen.

Stir in arborio rice ...

Broth ...

Tomatoes, tomato juice, and chicken.

Darryl samples the dish to adjust the seasoning, if needed.

Judy supervises.

Continue adding broth slowly, as required. The process
of adding broth on stove-top takes 20-to-25 min.

When rice starts to taste chewy, but not fully cooked, transfer skillet to oven, continuing to add broth, test, and stir a further 15-to-20 min. 

Into the oven it goes!

When rice has absorbed most of broth, stir in peas. Briefly remove skillet from oven and decorate with butterflied prawns and frozen clams. Return to oven a further 10 min.

Under Judys watchful eye, our Paella is headed for success!

And so we wait. And wait some more.

Darryl tests clams for doneness after 15 min. He
decides to give the dish a few minutes extra time.

Darryl again tests the Paella for doneness - almost!

And out it finally comes! Chicken, clams, sausages, prawns!

Was it worth the wait? Absolutely!

Note: The onion, pepper, garlic, and tomato mixture is known as sofrito - a Spanish tomato sauce made with olive oil, paprika and seasonings. There are many versions of sofrito, each crafted to the taste of the chef.

Further Note: To “butterfly” prawns or foods such as pork chops, slice horizontally, leaving just enough connective tissue so the food is not sliced fully through and can be opened flat. If you think this looks like a Rorschach test, lie on my couch and pay me to analyze your wayward psyche. If you think it looks like a butterfly, you win the big cash prize and the free trip to Fiji. Trust me, Dollinks: This is how you butterfly food.

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