The Fourth of July Paella (really, The Minimalist’s Paella)
Everybody is blogging red white and blue today but not me. I’m so oppositional. It’s also hot and muggy, temperatures in the upper eighties in NY, and what do I decide to cook but The Minimalist’s Paella from The Essential NY Times Cook Book, that requires nothing less than a 500˚F oven. The temperature in the kitchen rose to ninety-six! It was worth it. Called The Minimalist’s Paella, this dish is so simple, with just four main ingredients: rice, broth, shrimp and chorizo. I added the peeled shrimp shells to the broth to flavor it. The slight shrimp flavor it added to the broth was delicate. As the rice absorbed the water in the hot oven, it became crusty without being burnt at the edges, and the chorizo was toasted without being charred.
Prep time: 30 minutes (those shrimp take time to peel and devein!)
Cook time: 20 minutes
Resting: 10 minutes
1 pound shrimp-in-the-shell (I used medium shrimp but I think jumbo shrimp would be outstanding!)
4 cups chicken broth
pinch of saffron
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice (no substitutions!)
12 oz chorizo, mild or hot
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped scallion and cilantro, for garnish
Preheat oven 500˚F. While it is heating, peel the shrimp and save the shells. Devein the shrimp and set aside. Slice the chorizo on the bias and set aside.
In a small pot add the chicken broth. I used chicken stock paste because it’s more convenient. It tends to be salty so I only used half the recommended amount. Add the shrimp shells and saffron to the chicken broth. Let it come to a simmer. Strain the broth and discard the shells. Set aside the broth. The broth will be a pale yellow color from the saffron.
In a large oven-proof Dutch oven, heat the oil and when it is hot, add the onions. Cook until nearly transparent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir occasionally. Cook the rice until it looks shiny, about 1-2 minutes. Add the broth, shrimp, and chorizo. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook’s Note: Arborio rice’s unique property is the ability to quickly absorb liquid whether it is cooked on the stove top for a risotto or in the oven for The Minimalist’s Paella. Because of this, I do not recommend any other rice substitutions for this dish.
Bake 20-25 minutes, uncovered. The liquid should be absorbed and the paella will be dry on top. Stir, and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish each plate with scallion and cilantro. I served the paella with a minimalist’s accompaniment, quartered avocado pear.