Prep Time:15 minutes |
Cook Time:30 minutes
Valentine’s Day was up for discussion when I interviewed Ina Garten onstage in Marin last week (our 8th time together!). We had such an intimate, fun conversation even though it took place in front of 2,200 people. Everyone wanted to know what she would be making the beloved Jeffrey on February 14th and she said roast chicken — her favorite quick, elegant meal. That made me think about what I’d make for Sam and me. I decided on this simple, stylish paella for two. Unlike roast chicken, it’s an all-in-one dish so I don’t have to make anything else, except dessert. More on that later.
Here’s the great thing about paella: you can customize it how you want. Leave out the sausage if you are not eating meat or pork. Substitute water for broth. Use chopped asparagus rather than peas. Make this for 2, 4, 6, 8, or more people — it only depends on the size of your pan and the occasion.
The rice is critical, though. For that sticky, slightly burned bottom layer (the soccarat), you need a starchy short-grain varietal. Bomba is the best, but Arborio rice works, too, and is widely available. Every paella cooks a little differently, so use your judgment with time and liquid. In the end the rice should be a little chewy.
Back to dessert. I told Ina that my favorite of hers is frozen berries with hot white chocolate (use packaged frozen mixed berries instead of freezing them yourself at this time of year). It’s fast and sexy; the crash of textures and temperatures is unreal. Hot/Cold. Hard/Soft. Sweet/Tart. Sounds like a good Valentine’s Day.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 oz Spanish chorizo or andouille sausage, sliced thin (see note below)
1 small red bell pepper, diced (or use half a large one)
1 large red tomato, cut in half
2 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch saffron threads
about 1-1/2 cups light broth, such as low-sodium chicken or vegetable
1/2 cup short-grain white rice (Bomba or Arborio)
6 to 8 whole shrimp, preferably in the shell
1/2 cup fresh shelled or frozen (unthawed) peas
1 lemon, cut into quarters
In a small paella pan or 9-inch skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat and add sausage. Cook, stirring until sausage starts to sizzle and brown at the edges then add the bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the flesh of the tomato halves on the large holes of a regular cheese grater onto a plate; discard the skin. When bell pepper is soft, add the garlic and saffron and stir for 30 seconds. Then stir in the grated tomato, 1-1/2 cups broth, and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and sprinkle rice evenly over the surface of the liquid.
Cover pan with a lid or foil and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Then uncover and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the rice is al dente, about 10 minutes more (if it gets too dry, add a little more liquid; adjust heat if it boils too fast or slow). Sprinkle peas over the rice then arrange shrimp on the surface; cover again and cook until shrimp are pink, peas are tender, and rice is slightly stuck to the bottom of the pan, 5 to 8 minutes. Garnish with lemons and serve from the pan at the table.
*note: Be sure to use dried Spanish chorizo and not fresh Mexican. If you aren’t adding sausage, stir 1 teaspoon pimentòn into the oil when you cook the bell pepper; this adds a smoky flavor that makes up for the sausage.