For the last five years or so, I have been meeting up with my French conversation group to practice French and talk about all sorts of stuff. The group is made up of one Californian, a Frenchwoman, a Spaniard, and me, the token Filipina. I’ve come to look forward to meeting with this woman regardless of how hectic my Tuesdays get. Throughout our meetings, we manage to have such lively conversations as we discuss topics that range from Governor Christie’s mishandling of different local issues to financial troubles plaguing the European Community. But from time to time, we do venture into fun topics, such as cooking and travel.
One of the fun things we did recently was get together for lunch to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The Spaniard in the group, who is an excellent cook, thought she’d give us an easy Paella 101 cooking session. Of course, we all jumped at the opportunity to learn from a “local (at least to the recipe)” who’s willing to share a tip or two on how to make the dish.
So here’s my Spanish friend’s easy paella recipe that I hope you’ll try:
Easy Paella Recipe
Serves 4-6 individuals
1 – 1 1/2 lbs. of mussels
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 red pepper, cut in 1/2 inch strips
3 garlic cloves
6 to 7 pieces of chicken tenderloins, cut in large cubes
1 cup of rice, Arroz de Calasparra recommended
1 teaspoon of canola oil
2 saffron sachets (about a handful)
1 rosemary branch
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables (small peas, carrots, corn, string beans)
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 bowl of clams in shells
1/2 lb of prawns or large shrimps
1 – Cook the mussels the day before you’re to prepare the paella. Put enough water (about 2 1/2 to 3 cups) to cover the mussels. Add the bay leaf and sea salt. Boil the mussels until the shells open and the actual mussels are a little orange in color. Discard the ones that remain closed. Keep about two cups of the mussels broth, which you’ll use for the paella dish. Drain the mussels. Take them out of shell when cool and refrigerate for use the following day.
2 – In a wok or a special paella cooking dish at medium-high heat, add the canola oil. Once warm, add garlic, red peppers and chicken tenderloins.
3 – Once the chicken starts to turn white or light brown, add rice and two cups of mussels’ broth made from the day before.
4 – Add saffron and rosemary. Make sure not to cut rosemary; it’s only used to enhance paella flavor.
5 – Add the mixed vegetables and chicken bouillon.
6 – Add clams and prawns or large shrimps.
7 – Let the dish cook at medium heat for about 25 minutes, until the broth is almost absorbed. Make sure to take out rosemary halfway through the 25-minute time period.
8 – Add mussels when water is almost absorbed.
9 – Turn off heat and cover the wok or cookware with a dish towel to let steam and moisture blend flavors together.
10 – Et voila, you have nice summery dish to enjoy! Serve with a nice sangria or rosé.