Spain. My heart races writing the word. I come from hard core Midwestern RVing stock who said on at least 436 occasions, “Why do people go to Europe when the United States is the most beautiful country in the world? “ But when I saw pictures of Spain in my fourth grade schoolbook, I knew I had to go. And I did. And that I had to go again, and again. And I did. Which brings me to the Spanish gift I want to give you: my paella (pronounced “pah-AY-yuh”) recipe adapted for RV kitchens and my own rather dull palate. I hope you like it.
I love paella. What’s not to love about toasty rice, tomatoes, veggies, and any combination of meat or fish that exists, all made and served in the same large skillet? I’ve eaten paella all over Spain and have proof this dish, originally made for laborers over open fires in fields, is fantastic. My proof? I’ve hauled groups of hormone addled, picky- eating adolescents to Spain more than once , and if 8th grade pizza and burger addicted kids love paella, I’m telling you, paella is good.
Full disclosure: I don’t fancy myself a “cook” , and my tastes run to the pedestrian. I’ve eyed grilled cheese sandwiches with deep suspicion. Basically, if something ever had a mother or a face, I don’t like it. So, I confess the following recipe does not include many things typically found in various traditional paellas: ducks, rabbits, land snails, clams, shrimp, eels, lobster, mussels, cuttlefish and eye of newt and toe of frog. OK, I stole the last two things from William Shakespeare who I’ve heard never RV’d, but yes, authentic paella can contain just about anything that walks, swims or grows in any given region of Spain. People have fought to the death over the meaning of “paella” but it pretty much comes down to “pan.” You’ll find about 50 billion recipes for paella on the internet; one is bound to please your loved ones.
Here’s a paella I make for my family (they’ll eat anything and actually prefer that it once had a mother or a face).
Patti’s Paella con Chicken and Sausage
(This works great in my RV’s electric skillet. )
Makes: about 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes to an hour
- 2 + tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces Italian sausage, hot or mild. Italian sausage is always available but ideally, use crumbled up Spanish chorizo if you can find it.
- 2 cups cut up chicken (meaty parts that you like)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper any color, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 cup brown rice ( There’s a million types of rice; pick what you like)
- 2 cups water (or half water/half chicken broth)
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 -2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- A large pinch of saffron if you can find it, but it’s fine without it.
- Chopped parsley
- Several lemon slices
- Put cut chicken pieces in olive oil in electric skillet ( or whatever skillet you have) over medium-high heat. Keep turning as it cooks. Turn off RV smoke detector (:
- When chicken is mostly cooked (10 minutes or so?) add crumbled sausage stirring occasionally, until light brown, maybe 3 or 4 minutes.
- Lower heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic and cook until the onion turns translucent, 3 to 5 minutes more. Stir often.
- Stir in rice, salt, pepper and saffron. Keep stirring; cook until rice is shiny and coated with oil, 3 or 4 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomato and water/chicken broth. Stir and lower heat to simmer. Keep lid on.
Cook 30 minutes before checking for doneness; then add a little broth or water if the rice is dry but not yet tender.
Rice should be tender with liquid absorbed; may take a few more minutes. Throw the peas on top until they’re hot but still crunchy. Mushy peas are nasty.
NOTE: I LOVE paella with the crunchy toasted rice on the bottom of the pan (called “soccarat”), so I uncover the pot when everything is done, shove most of the rice to the bottom, and turn the heat up so the rice sizzles. Cook, without stirring, until you can smell the rice toasting (but not burning), then turn off the heat. The best paella always has the crunchy rice on the bottom.
Season with salt and pepper and a bit of saffron if you have it.
Top with parsley and lemon wedges.
You can mix the paella all together, but I leave the toasted rice on the bottom instead, because that’s how it was served in Spain. Only once there did I have paella all mixed together. That trip was with students, and one of my 8th grade boys, an overly articulate culinary expert who by then had eaten paella several different places on our tour, said, “Why did they mix it all together? The rice should be on the bottom. That’s like…totally stupid.” Sigh…
- Serve with simple garden salad, and chunks of good bread with olive oil on the side. However, paella typically stands alone, served with a good wine.
Paella is the ultimate flexible dish. You can adapt it to your own taste in just about any way. Play with it!