Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lazy Paella

How much do you love the 70s/80s? Remember how we were supposed to Have It All? As a little girl, I very clearly knew I was going to have a Career and work in an Office and have fabulous Work Outfits, but also come home from said Career and Cook Fabulous Meals and maybe also Be an Opera Singer or Photographer or something Amazing, you know, in my Spare Time. Perhaps you saw the same commercial for Enjoli? Perhaps you, like me, are still trying to figure out how to make it all work… or at the very least, how to use hot rollers…

 Anyhow, in my quest for self-actualization (aka dinner), I pulled out my copy of the brilliant 1974 lifestyle guide / cookbook that is Better Homes and Gardens “After Work Cookbook”  and found this tasty-looking dish in the “make-ahead main dishes” section. I’d never made paella, and in fact I thought it was the kind of thing you would have to actually Be from Spain to make, and that it would take Hours… but what REALLY attracted me was the Dansk casserole in the picture. Like, Ohmygod, I said (because the 80s were eclipsing the 70s at that moment), my MOM has that dish! I can make this!

Oh no, conflicted – the Dansk casserole dish was WAY too big – come on, I’m only feeding two people here! Fortunately, I had another Dansk vessel to substitute: my Kobenstyle paella pan. Saved!

 As I assembled the dish one night after dinner (to heat and eat the following, as instructed), I told my daughter about eating paella in Spain and how terrified I was of all the tiny, beautiful sea creatures that dotted the massive bowl of saffron rice, and how I picked around them, eating only the rice and carrot pieces because I didn’t know how to get into any of the shells, and because octopi are Just Too Chewy. (See, vegetarians, this is what you are doing to your children – turning them into socially awkward eaters who can’t get the hang of seafood till they turn 30!) My daughter said not to put in any shrimp or she wouldn’t try it. Also, canned mushrooms? Gross. I used fresh, and lightly sautéed them in butter. Because butter always wins.

The other thing is, I just used what they now market as “chicken tenders” because I’m still not an expert at breaking down chickens. And because I was trying to use less fat, I steamed the chicken bits. Tasty, but I cannot claim they are attractive in any way. I see now that I should have perhaps gone heavier with the paprika for color. Forgive the food styling, or lack thereof, which just proves that you can’t actually have it all. Rats.

Yes I used onion soup mix, but I can't deal with canned mushrooms. I know, I know!

Steamed chicken: tastes great, not sexy at all. Sad face.

I used onion soup mix, because the recipe told me to be "Lazy" and do that, but if I were to make this again, I’d use garlic and onions, like real ones, and maybe some oregano. Oh and what the heck is saffron rice? Since I’d never heard of it, I dumped in a teeny bit of real saffron because I hear that’s how they make it in Spain (where they also often use Land Snails, but that’s another story entirely!).

So I enjoyed finally using my paella platter, but I can’t say this was the Best Thing Ever. I do think it needed the shrimp, and they need to be spicy. I’m thinking about variations, and about the Dansk casserole and what to make in that one. Oh, and I’m still singing the Enjoli commercial because some myths just simply refuse to die. 

1 3-pound ready-to-cook broiler-fryer chicken, cut-up
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 ½ cups chicken broth
8 ounces shelled shrimp
1-8 ½ ounce can peas, drained
1 6-ounce package saffron rice mix
1 3-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained
½ envelope onion soup mix (1/4 cup)

Advance preparation: brown chicken in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix remaining ingredients; spread in 3-quart casserole. Top with chicken. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Cover; chill ip to 24 hours.

Before serving: Bake, covered, at 350 degrees about 1 ¼ hours. Makes 4 servings.

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