My sweet, sweet husband gave me cooking lessons at Sur la Table for my birthday this year. We enjoyed our first class so much that we decided to try to do one class each month. This recipe comes from the lesson Fresh & Fabulous Spring Cooking. Although Paella is often thought to be a seafood dish, it is really all about the rice and the socarrat (the crunchy rice crust for which paella is famous). This version incorporates fresh spring peas, asparagus and finely chopped Spanish chorizo sausage. The sofrito (a veggie and spice sauce that seasons the rice) is prepared first and set aside. The peas and asparagus are sautéed and set aside also. Chorizo is added to the hot pan sautéed for just a minute before the spices are added to the pan and toasted. The sofrito is added to the pan and, when combined with the spices, creates a savory paste. Hot chicken broth is added to the pan along with rice and a bit of salt. Once everything has come to a boil for several minutes, the pan is covered with foil and vented. The heat is reduced to medium-low and the mixture is allowed to simmer for 10 minutes undisturbed. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium-high for a few minutes to form the socarrat. Once the rice has caramelized, the spring peas and asparagus are returned to the pan and the entire dish is covered and allowed to rest. Bring the pan to the table and serve family-style for a delicious, filling meal. This recipe was so tasty — I couldn’t stop nibbling. Shown here with Grilled Salmon and Cilantro Chimichurri.
Hint: Add the saffron to just a tiny bit of white wine for a few minutes prior to use. The saffron leaches into the white wine and allows the spice to be distributed evenly throughout the dish.
SPRING PEA, CHORIZO AND ASPARAGUS PAELLA (Serves 6-8)
- 3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
- 1 T. minced garlic
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 t. pimenton (smoked paprika)
- 1/2 t. sea salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 3-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch asparagus, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup fresh shelled or frozen peas
- 4 ounces of Spanish-style chorizo, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 fat pinch saffron
- 2 t. pimenton (smoked paprika)
- 1-1/2 t. turmeric
- 1-1/2 cups Spanish paella rice
- 2 t. sea salt
- 2 lemons cut into wedges
- Heat the oil in the paella pan or medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stirring frequently until tender and lightly caramelized, 5 to 8 minutes. Add red pepper and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, pimenton, salt and bay leaf. Reduce heat to medium and stir frequently until the sauce is thick and turns a deep brick red color, about 10 minutes. Transfer sofrito to a small bowl and remove the bay leaf.
- Bring chicken broth to a simmer in a large saucepan.
- Add oil to a 13-inch paella pan or skillet over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add asparagus and peas; saute until bright green and tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer asparagus and peas to bowl and set aside. Add chorizo to the pan and saute, about 1 minute. Make a space in the center of the paella pan; add the spices and toast for 30 seconds. Add the sofrito and stir to make a paste with the spices. Ladle 3 cups of hot broth and stir in rice and salt, shaking the pan to evenly distribute the rice grains. Increase the heat to medium-high and boil for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the rice just starts to break the surface of the broth. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer gently, undisturbed for 10 minutes. During the whole process, if the rice looks dry and undercooked, drizzle in some chicken broth.
- Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium-high; cook for 2 minutes until the bottom layer of rice starts to crackle and caramelize creating the socarrat. At this point, you will need to closely monitor the paella and frequently move your pan around on the burner to evenly distribute the heat. With a spoon, gently scrape a small portion of the rice from the bottom, peeking to make sure that the rice is sticking and caramelizing but not burning (the rice should smell toasty, not burnt). If the rice is browned and caramelized on the bottom of the pan and the rice grains are not al dente (chewy but slightly resistant texture), remove the heat; sprinkle asparagus and peas over the rice and cover, letting the paella rest for 10 minutes.
- Garnish with lemon-wedges and serve family-style straight from the pan.
~ from Sur la Table ~