Spanish Paella

PaellaSo how can you have a week dedicated to rice and not touch on paella? Originating in the Valencia region on the east coast of Spain, paella is widely regarded as Spain’s national dish, as well as the identifying symbol of the Valencians. The three best known types of paella are Valencian paella, seafood paella, and mixed paella, but there are many others as well. Valencian paella is believed to be the original recipe and consists of white rice, green beans, meat (chicken and rabbit), white beans, snails, and seasoning such as saffron and rosemary. Another very common but seasonal ingredient is artichoke. Seafood paella replaces meats with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables. Mixed paella is a free-style combination of land animals, seafood, vegetables, and sometimes beans.

The dish earned it’s name from the pan in which it is prepared. Derived from the Old French word paelle for pan, which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan as well. Valencians use the word paella for all pans, including the specialized shallow pan used for cooking paellas. Paelleras are traditionally round, shallow and made of polished steel with two handles. As most North American home kitchens don’t have paelleras hanging around, a large, oven proof skillet will do as a replacement.

The recipe below is a bit of a twist on a traditional paella, as there is chicken and sausage, but no fish or shellfish. A key ingredient that is present though is saffron. It adds an essential taste and colour to the dish that is a must! Due to the high cost of saffron, you can use Mexican saffron rather than Spanish or European, as it tends to be cheaper. Just note that you need to use a bit more, as the flavours are not as intense. If you can’t find kosher chorizo sausage, you can use a substitute such as a smoked paprika or spiced sausage. The recipe below will serve 8 very happy people.

Ingredients:

Chicken:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and black pepper to taste
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces

Rice:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
1 large pinch saffron threads
1 bay leaf
½ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped*
1 litre chicken stock
1 (398ml) can of diced tomatoes
2 lemons, zested**

Sausage & Vegetables:
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed and sliced/diced
1 large Spanish onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
½ cup frozen green peas

* Click here to learn how to properly clean parsley.
** Click here for tips on zesting.

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and rice. Cook, stirring, to coat rice with oil, about 3 minutes. Stir in saffron threads, bay leaf, parsley, chicken stock, diced tomatoes and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Add the cut up sausage to the skillet and saute until the fat begins to render from the meat. Once the sausage is cooked/heated through, using a slotted spoon, remove it from the pan, but keep the majority of the fat/drippings in the pan. Return the pan to the heat, and add the marinated chicken and onion, cooking for 5-7 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Once the chicken is almost fully cooked, return the sausage to the skillet, along with the peas, and mix to incorporate.

Combine the meat/vegetable mixture with the semi-cooked rice, and place in the preheated oven for 10-20 minutes, until the rice has completely finished cooking and has begun to get a bit crispy. Serve hot!

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Sausage & Chicken Jambalaya

Sausage & Chicken JambalayaThis one dish meal is great for a weeknight, and can be made as spicy or mild as you like. You can use any type of sausage that you like, though if using a raw one, I suggest either completely removing it from the casing and cooking it up like ground meat, or cooking it whole with the casing still on, then slicing it up thick and adding it to the pot later. Just be careful when stirring the dish later that if you’ve cut up the sausage that it doesn’t crumble and break up too much! This recipe will makes 6 servings.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
¾ pound sausage, sliced into rounds
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (398ml) can crushed Italian tomatoes
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 ¼ cups uncooked white rice
3 cups chicken broth

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the sausage and chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning. Sauté sausage until browned. Remove with slotted spoon, and set aside. A lot of oil will naturally render when you are cooking the sausage, so you can use this very flavourful oil to now cook the chicken pieces in. If you find that you don’t have enough oil from cooking the sausages, you can always add a bit more oil to the pan. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté them until lightly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

In the same pot, sauté onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in crushed tomatoes, and season with red pepper, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce, thyme, basil and oregano. Stir in chicken and sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Serve hot!

Italian Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Sausage and PeppersIngredients:

8 (4 ounce) links sweet Italian sausage or other sweet/mild sausage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 (796ml) can of diced or crushed tomatoes
⅓ cup wine or beer
½ tablespoon of corn starch

Directions:

In a large pot, add the canned tomatoes and herbs, then cook on low while preparing the remaining ingredients. Place the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet, and slice. Add the sliced sausage and any drippings to the pot with the tomatoes.

Add the oil to the same skillet that you used for the sausages. Stir in the onions and garlic, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peppers, and then stir in the wine/beer. Continue to cook and stir until peppers and onions are tender.

Once tender, add the vegetables to the pot with the tomatoes and sausages. Let everything simmer on low for an hour. If you find that the sauce is a bit too watery, take about 3 tablespoons of liquid from the pot and mix it with the cornstarch. Once dissolved, add this cornstarch slurry back to the pot. It will thicken up the sauce. Serve hot.

Fajita Spice Mix

Fajita SeasoningA fajita is a term found in Tex-Mex cuisine, commonly referring to any grilled meat usually served as a taco on a flour or corn tortilla. The term originally referred to the cut of beef used in the dish which is known as skirt steak. Popular meats today also include chicken, pork, shrimp, and all cuts of beef. In restaurants, the meat is often cooked with onions and bell peppers. Popular condiments are shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, cheese, and tomato. The northern Mexican variant of the dish name is Arrachera.

So I call this a Fajita seasoning mix, but it can be used with tacos, chilies or anything that you want to give a south western flair to. You will notice the addition of two ingredients that may seem a bit out of place. First, there is the cocoa powder; you won’t taste it in the finished product, but the subtle chocolate flavour helps round out the other spices and notes of the blend. The second it the starch. I add this to help thicken, ever so slightly, the sauce/gravy that is created when using this blend, especially in fajitas or tacos. When it comes time to using the blend, other than as a dry rub, I suggest adding 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice (more to taste), 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon water. This will give you the slight saucy consistency you want.

This recipe will make about a cup of spice mix.

Ingredients:

¼ cup chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon corn starch/potato starch/flour

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container. Can be kept for one to six months (depending on how airtight your container is).

Sauce 4 – Basic Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce 1This is a traditional tomato sauce that I have adjusted to reflect a kosher kitchen: meaning that the salt pork and ham bone have been removed, and substituted with an equal amount of olive oil and the use of a beef marrow bone. Should you wish to make the sauce pareve, or vegetarian, you can leave out the bone all together. This recipe will make about 4 cups of sauce.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onions, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 (796ml) cans crushed tomatoes
4 cups veal or chicken stock
1 beef marrow bone
Kosher salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
——– For Sachet: ——–
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3-4 fresh parsley stems
8-10 black peppercorns, crushed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Tie the sachet ingredients into a cheesecloth sack using a piece of kitchen twine. In a heavy, oven-safe Dutch oven, bring the olive oil up to temperature. Add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onion is translucent but not brown. Add the tomatoes, the beef bone (if using), the stock and the sachet. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer the pot to the oven. Simmer in the oven, partially covered, for two hours. Remove from oven. Remove sachet and bone and purée sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth, working in batches if necessary. Season to taste with Kosher salt and a small amount of sugar — just enough to cut the acid edge of the tomatoes. Serve hot. If not serving the sauce right away, keep it covered and warm until you’re ready to use it.

Creole SauceCreole Sauce

Creole sauce, also referred to as creole tomato sauce, and sauce piquant in New Orleans, is a Creole cuisine, Bahamian cuisine and New Orleans cuisine sauce made by sautéeing vegetables in butter and olive oil. It is used in the American south and in Bahamas. This recipe will make about 2 cups of sauce.

Ingredients:

2 cups tomato sauce (see recipe above)
¾ cup chopped onions
¾ cup chopped celery
½ cup diced green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Zest of 1 lemon*
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the onions, green pepper, celery and garlic until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, bay leaf, oregano and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf, season with the salt, pepper and cayenne and serve right away.

* click here for my tips on zesting lemons and other citrus.

spanish sauceSpanish Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce with a spanish flair can also be refered to as a sofrito – which in Spanish cuisine, consists of garlic, onion, paprika, peppers, and tomatoes cooked in olive oil. While there is no paprika in this recipe, the additions of the the mushrooms and olives add a nice earthy and salty kick. This sauce is great on meats and poultry, or even just over pasta. This recipe will make about 2 cups of sauce.

Ingredients:

2 cups tomato sauce
½ cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup chopped onions
¼ cup diced green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce (or another hot pepper sauce), to taste
½ cup olives (black or green), sliced

Directions:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the onions, green pepper and garlic until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until the mushrooms are soft. Add the tomato sauce, bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper, Tabasco and olives, then serve right away.