One of my earliest blog recipes was for a Paella with Seafood and Chicken that I posted almost a year ago. Paella is so commonly served with shellfish of some sort that many would regard it as being a seafood dish but, in fact, that isn’t really the case at all. In Spain, Valencia is considered the spiritual home of Paella and the traditional version there, while still based on saffron infused rice, contains snails, usually rabbit, and sometimes chicken or duck. Beans, often a variety, are always included (frequently along with other green vegetables) and tomatoes are required, although the amounts used vary considerably.
I have been meaning to try a Valencian style Paella for ages now but, sadly, it has been about two years since I have seen rabbit in our local grocery store and I have given up hope of obtaining any at present. Still, some Paellas are made in Valencia using only snails so I figure that a ‘bunny-less’ one containing just snails and chicken should still be alright. Beyond that, I will stick to traditional ingredients (although I prefer to use long-grained rather than short-grained rice), but I will make one departure from tradition in the method of cooking…
In true Spanish tradition, a Paella is cooked over an open wood fire in large, flat-bottomed shallow pans known as paellas or paelleras. The whole dish, from start to finish is cooked in the pans with the meats being first browned, vegetables then cooked alongside, with water being added and cooked down to make a rich stock before the rice and saffron is added. I, however, will brown my chicken separately and partly cook my rice in stock before assembling everything in the paellera for a final cooking. In the past, I have usually done the last part in the oven, but this results in there being no nice rice crust (known as the soccarat) at the bottom of the pan. Today, though, I am going to add the rice to the paellera a little earlier than usual and finish cooking on the stovetop to try and achieve this result…
- 1 ½ cups rice (use a short-grained if you wish to be traditional);
- 2 cups good Chicken Stock;
- 1 cup White Wine;
- 1 packet powdered Saffron (or a couple of pinches of the whole ‘threads’);
- 1 tbsp. dried Rosemary;
- 1 tsp. Salt;
- 2 lbs. Chicken parts;
- 1 can Snails (36 per can), rinsed well with boiling water;
- 1 cup chopped Onion;
- ½ cup diced fresh Tomato;
- 1 cup fresh Green Beans, blanched for 3 minutes and cut into 1” lengths;
- 5 canned Artichoke Hearts (these are often added in Valencia);
- ½ cup diced Red Bell Pepper (save 5 rings for garnishing if desired);
- 3 cloves of Garlic, chopped;
- Parsley, for garnish;
- Salt and Pepper to taste;
- Empty snail shells (optional, for garnish);
The first step is to brown the chicken pieces. You can do this in a pan, if you like, but I did mine in the oven to save me watching them. Don’t overdo this step, as they will cook further in the assembled Paella. Keep warm until ready to use.
Add a couple of glugs of good olive oil to a hot saucepan and throw in the garlic, rosemary and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened but just shy of beginning to darken, and then add the tomato and red bell pepper and cook for just a few minutes longer.
Now add the rice, the teaspoon of salt, the wine, stock and saffron. Allow it to come to the boil and then cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Cook for no more than 20 minutes so that the rice has just about, but not quite absorbed all the cooking liquid.
If you have, and are using, snail shells, now is a good time to put a snail into each one. Stir the remainder into the rice along with the green beans. Add pepper and, if necessary, a little extra salt to taste, and then turn the rice into the paellera. Spread it out and arrange the chicken pieces and artichoke hearts attractively, pushing them down into the hot rice.
Now put the pan onto your burner at moderately high-heat. At this point, you can add your snail shells, pepper rings, or whatever else you like as garnish (fresh rosemary sprigs, if you have them, would be nice). About two to three minutes should be sufficient to allow the rice to begin forming a crust on the bottom of the pan and you may hear some ‘singing’ as this happens. The length of time will be a bit of a judgment call, depending on the heat (and you can always dig down through the rice to check what is happening), but you need to be sure not to let it go so far that the rice begins to burn. Once you judge it ready, take the pan from the heat, sprinkle over the parsley and serve immediately with whatever wine you didn’t drink while cooking.
Well, although I would really prefer a seafood Paella any day, this was pretty good and I loved the rosemary flavor with the chicken and snails. I’m afraid I didn’t get the socarat just right; the rice started singing as soon as I put the pan on the burner and I was afraid of overdoing it. I really didn’t want to disturb everything by digging down and, consequently, I took the pan from the heat a little too early and there was barely any crust at all. Oh well, I’ll just try to do better the next time …
Oh, by the way, the canned artichokes were just awful. It is the first time I have used them and it will also be the last.