Monday, July 28, 2008

Mountain Paella

We made this fantastic paella with our friends Mark and Karen on the gas grill at the cabin. Paella is really supposed to be cooked over a wood fire, but this gas grill also works great. It helps to have a real metal paella pan that you can put right on the grill. If you don't have a paella pan, you would need two 12-inch skillets, preferably not cast iron since they hold too much heat.

The usual problem with paella is that a stove burner is too small to adequately heat the whole pan, which is wide and shallow. So the rice around the edges does not get cooked. A solution to that is to put it in the oven to finish it, which is not as authentic but still delicious. Here is my recipe for mountain paella, adapted from The Catalan Country Kitchen by Marimar Torres (sadly, out of print). (In Spain, there is a dish called "mountain rice" which contains snails and rabbit--but this is not it.) We grilled the chicken separately so we would have enough room in the paella pan for all the rice.

Mountain Paella
Serves 6-8
10 chicken thighs
8 cloves garlic, chopped (divided)
1/4 cup olive oil (divided)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (divided)
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 white onion, chopped
3 lbs. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
4 oz. firm, lean Spanish chorizo, removed from casing and chopped
3 tsp. salt (divided)
2 tsp. pepper (divided)
About 7 cups of chicken broth, canned or homemade
1 tsp. saffron threads
3 cups short-grain rice
Lemon wedges

For grilled chicken, combine 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 4 chopped garlic cloves, 1 tsp. each salt and pepper, and 1 Tbsp. chopped rosemary and rub over chicken. Start grilling chicken while sofrito is cooking.
Start the sofrito on the stovetop: heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in paella pan or a skillet and saute onion, remaining 4 chopped garlic cloves, red pepper, remaining 1 Tbsp. of rosemary, and tomatoes over medium heat until dry, approx. 30 minutes. While the sofrito is cooking, in another pan saute the chopped chorizo for approx. 5 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Discard oil from chorizo. Also while sofrito is cooking, heat chicken broth in a saucepan to a boil and add saffron; keep warm until needed. Turn off sofrito and let sit while you attend to the grilled chicken. When chicken is done, remove and cover to keep warm.
Put paella pan or skillet with sofrito on the grill. Add rice, remaining 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper, and cooked chorizo to the sofrito and cook for a few minutes. Add warm broth to pan; if there is too much liquid, reserve any extra to add later. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes without stirring; broth should be simmering. Add any reserved broth as rice cooks. Taste rice to see if it's done--it should not be too soft. After 20 minutes the rice may still be a bit soupy, but should be almost done (only a tiny bit of hardness in the middle). Take it off the heat, put as many pieces of the grilled chicken on it as will fit, put a cloth over it and let it sit for 5 minutes. Serve paella with additional grilled chicken pieces with lemon wedges.

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