Revisiting Spain with Tomato Paella
As you know, loyal readers, Chew on That is still in the beginning stages of food blogging development. Not even a year old, we cooking novices are just beginning to spread our culinary wings and truly embrace the incredibility that is the online food world. It’s true, we spend much of our time toiling over what we believe to be a major contribution to this online community, but when we’re not adding recipes and creating 7-Day Meal Planners, we spend quite a bit of time in the food blogosphere.
And it is this incredible database of knowledge, advice and wisdom, which regularly inspires me to cook what I would not normally try; a few days ago it was chicken, yesterday it was paella.
I fell in love with paella when I was traveling abroad during my junior year of college. Dining on the wharf in Barcelona with some friends, I ordered my very first paella and found my plate piled high with plump rice, fresh seafood and a beady-eyed prawn staring back at me. And when I tasted it, I fell in love. The combination of the seafood, creamy rice and something else… (I later learned it was saffron, the most expensive spice in the world) had me begging for more.
So of course, when I came back to the States after my travels, I just had to recreate it. And surprisingly enough, my attempts have been quite successful. I’ve tried a recipe that cooks entirely on the stove and also one that cooks mostly in the oven. Both require a great deal of prep work and although the dish always turns out amazingly, it’s a big “to do” in the kitchen.
Up until last night, I hadn’t attempted paella since my senior year of college, when I dazzled my incredulous roommates with a gourmet meal instead of the rice cakes and peanut butter that were often considered dinner.
But then I found this.
So gorgeously red and bursting with tomatoes, I decided this dish would be my paella comeback. I invited some friends over last night for the big event and, slightly wary of the simplicity of the recipe, went to work. I was shocked at how easy the whole thing was! After everything was chopped and ready to go, it was really just a matter of combining ingredients (after all, isn’t that what cooking is truly about?).
I think what I enjoyed most about the dish was the subtlety of the flavors. So often we’re hit over the head with intense garlic flavor or eight different cheeses that overwhelm a dish and it was refreshing to be able to experience the food and really taste the components. I highly recommend this recipe to a paella novice as it’s quite simple and very adaptable. I decided to add in some shrimp for added protein and it worked out deliciously.
So without further ado, I give you Mark Bittman’s Tomato Paella as posted by The Wednesday Chef.
I added shrimp to this dish for some extra protein, but you could really add any shellfish or chicken if you’d like.
3 C. water
1/2 C. white wine
1 1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 Tbs. tomato paste
Large pinch saffron threads
1-2 tsp. Spanish pimentón (paprika)
2 C. Spanish or other short-grain rice (arborio works very well too)
1/4-1/2 lb. shrimp, cleaned (optional)
Minced parsley and basil for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Warm water in a saucepan. Put cut tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Toss to coat.
Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, saffron if you are using it, and paprika and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another minute or two. Add wine and let simmer until it is mostly absorbed. If you are adding shrimp, add in now and stir to combine. Then add the hot water and stir until just combined.
Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Put pan in oven and roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, return pan to oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with parsley and basil. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.
Recipe as seen on The Wednesday Chef.