(Above, Mary shows off her kitchen skills and a necklace she bought on her last visit to Spain.)
Watching my friend Mary cook in her kitchen is more exciting than watching Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis battle it out on the Iron Chef. You can see, hear and smell the food cooking, knowing that in a few minutes you’re getting some!
Mary’s a great cook and hostess and last night she and her husband Ray invited a few close friends to their home in Gloucester, Mass. for sangria, tapas and paella, followed by a wine tasting. The tapas included a homemade aloili, stuffed mushrooms, manchego cheese and crackers, a mortadella and ham salad, and bowls of almonds and olives.
But the main course was paella, two in fact: one made with seafood and one made with chicken. Both were perfectly prepared: light, moist, a hundred flavors playing on your tongue at once with only a delicate hint of saffron.
Mary notes: “There are so many variations on this dish. For the fisherman husband who does not like seafood, I leave that out and have chicken and chorizo. You can also make a veggie type with asparagus and beans, etc. I’ve played around with quite a few versions, but usually end up doing something like this… It’s like building layers of flavor all in one pan. Best served with a nice glass of tempranillo or garnacha, and good friends of course. J“
Mmm. After eating the tapas and paella we sampled a few bottles of some red Spanish wine. But to be honest, we had so much fun I can’t remember which bottle we liked best.
Mary's Chicken (or Seafood) Paella
- Olive oil (1/4 cup)
- Chicken (Boneless thighs and/or drumsticks and/or breasts
- About 3 pounds)
- Spanish Onion (1 large, diced)
- Green bell pepper (1 large, diced)
- Parsley or cilantro (About 2-3 tablespoons, chopped)
- Diced tomatoes (1 14.5-ounce can)
- Chicken broth (4 1/2 cups)
- Spanish-style chorizo links (1 pound, cut into slices on the bias)
- Valencia or Arborio short-grain rice (2 cups)
- Fresh or frozen green peas (1 cup)
- Saffron threads (Just a pinch)
- Paprika (2 tsp.)
- Salt, pepper to taste.
- Lemon wedges (to serve as garnish)
- Step 1 Heat a paella pan or very large, shallow skillet or pot, preferably with 2 handles over high heat. A large cast iron skillet would also work here.
- Step 2 Pour in the olive oil and let it heat up. Season the chicken all over with salt, pepper and paprika. Sear in the olive oil until brown all over. Transfer to a plate with tongs.
- Step 3 Lower the heat to medium and saute the onions and bell pepper until softened.
- Step 4 Stir in the diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and chorizo.
- Step 5 Bring the liquid to a boil and then stir in the rice and saffron.
- Step 6 Add the browned chicken pieces. The rice should be completely covered with liquid.
- Step 7 Cook the paella without stirring for 20 minutes. When the liquid has all been absorbed, pour the peas over the top of the pot, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a kitchen towel.
- Step 8 Let stand 5 minutes and then serve with lemon wedges.