Sunday, November 18, 2007


(Note: We were having too much fun! I forgot to take a photo of the finished product. I took this photo after all the guests had left. By that time, the rice was still absorbing liquid and got sticky. It looked much better when it came out of the oven, but this is a reminder: keep adding liquid right up to the end, even after you take it out of the oven.)

Last night, we had friends for dinner and I got to use the saffron that I bought at World Market in Knoxville. After researching what seemed like hundreds of paella recipes, I definitely decided since I'm not Spanish I really didn't care much about making authentic paella. Because I had definite ideas in mind for what to put in my paella, I decided to strike out on my own. For one thing, I didn't want white rice. Now I know everyone makes paella with white rice, but I wanted to use brown rice. Brown rice has fiber, vitamins and is more slowly absorbed into your body, so is slightly less glycemic than white rice. A friend gave us a bag of California brown rice, and it's very good so I decided to use it in the paella. (I read all the pros and cons on rices -- don't use arborio rice, don't use American rice, etc., but I really didn't think a Hungarian-German and an Italian would know they weren't eating authentic Spanish short-grain rice in their paella.) I decided to use boned chicken thighs instead of breasts or mixed pieces. I wanted this to be easy to eat and moist, tender chicken. However, if I do it again I might leave the skins on the thighs and the bones in, because, first, the chicken won't stick to the pan, and second, the bone adds additional flavor -- and, really, it's not terribly messy to cut into a chicken thigh.) I didn't want peas; I wanted artichokes. And I wanted to be careful with the seasonings. (The last time I made paella, I didn't have saffron, so I used turmeric. It was a disaster, but everyone was polite and said it was good. To make matters worse, I used too much turmeric, and I could barely eat it myself. I still can't believe anyone else ate it.) I was a nervous wreck over this paella, and became more so when the rice just wouldn't cooperate. After an hour on the stove, it was still crunchy. But when I finished it in the oven, covered, it came together and was very tender and had absorbed all the flavors -- which is what it's supposed to do. Paella is really a rice dish, and the meats and seafood you put in are supposed to be inconsequential. The Spanish focused more on the rice for this dish than anything else. The way to get the rice to absorb the flavors of the broth and seasonings is to first toast it in olive oil and then slowly add the liquid. It needs to be cooked in an open pot over a low heat. The slow open cooking method is what does the trick. But it takes patience. I started it too late, since I've never used this method of cooking it before and wasn't aware of the time difference in cooking the rice. So we ate a little late, but we had a good time while we waited for our dinner. And I know it was good -- not only because I liked it, but also because Guy -- finicky Guy -- liked it, and the other two men had second helpings.

Judy's Brown Rice Paella

INGREDIENTS: 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
2-1/2 tsp. sea salt, divided use
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
1-1/2 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. black pepper, divided use
10 chicken thighs, boned with skins or skinless boneless cut into chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine, drinking quality
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
2 cups Spanish or sweet onions, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh garlic
1-1/2 cups brown rice
1 bay leaf
3 pinches of crushed hot red pepper flakes
14.5 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes (I used Muir Glen)
1 quart chicken broth
13.75 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts in water (or use frozen artichoke hearts, if you prefer)
2 roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped (I used homemade, 1 red and 1 gold, but you can use purchased if you prefer)
1 lb. cooked Italian sausage, hot or sweet, cut into 1" chunks (I used a mixture of hot and sweet)
About 30-35 fresh Littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
1 lb. large fresh shrimp, shucked and deveined
1 doz. or more fresh mussels, scrubbed and rinsed (I couldn't get mussels this time, no one had them)

DIRECTIONS: In 1 gallon resealable plastic bag, mix 2 Tbsp. oil, 1 tsp. sea salt, paprika, chile powder, oregano, black pepper and chicken pieces. Close bag and massage till spices are well distributed over the chicken pieces. Refrigerate for several hours, the longer the better. (After I marinated the chicken in the morning, I cut up all the vegetables, shucked the shrimp, cleaned the clams, and basically got all the ingredients lined up for the paella. I started cooking it at 4:30 pm, so the chicken marinated about 7 hours. Having everything ready made the cooking process much easier. Also, when I boned the thighs, I cut out a lot of the fat pieces, which made nice lean thigh pieces. The reason I used thighs instead of breasts is because the thighs hold up better in a longer cooking process, whereas the breasts tend to dry out.)

Crush the saffron in a mortar and pestle and add it to the wine in a small bowl or cup. Set aside. In a heavy 3-quart saute' pan, heat 3 Tbsp. oil and saute' the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes each side, or till browned and partly cooked. Remove chicken to a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to the pan and saute the onions on medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes, till nice and golden and limp. If they start to burn, turn the heat to low. You don't want them burned, so watch them closely. The bottom of the pan may look burnt to you, especially if you use the boneless chicken, but don't worry, it'll be fine.
Add the garlic and stir for a minute or so, then add the rice and coat it well -- let it "toast" for a few minutes. Add the wine which has now turned yellowish from the saffron, and turn the heat up a tad. Add 1-1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and the bay leaf. Let the wine bubble up, and as it does, scrape the burned bits off the bottom of the pan with a spoon or spatula. You may have to do this for a few minutes before the wine loosens them all up. Be sure you get them all, because there's tons of flavor in those bits! When the rice has absorbed the wine, lower the heat and add the juice from the tomatoes, pressing the lid down on the tomatoes to get as much juice as possible. Let the rice absorb the tomato juice, then add about 1 cup chicken broth and stir and let it absorb. Continue to cook, stir, and add broth as needed without covering the pan, for the next hour. Take your time with this process because this is how the rice gets all the flavor.
After the rice has cooked for an hour, taste the broth and adjust seasonings if necessary. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put the chicken into a 4-quart or larger glass or metal pan (I used an Anchor Hocking 10.5 x 14.75, 4 quart ovenware pan which was the perfect size for this amount; however, if mussels had been available, or if I had used skin-on bone-in thighs, it would have been too small.) Pour rice and broth over chicken, add 1 cup hot water, cover with tinfoil and bake in oven till rice is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, Add artichokes, red peppers, tomatoes and sausage and more hot water if needed. Cook, covered, for an additional 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven, add parsley, clams and shrimp and more hot water if needed. Cook, covered, for an additional 15-20 minutes, or till clams have opened. Serve with garnish of fresh parsley. Yield: 8-10 servings


Mom's Sewing Vault said...

I found you by googling "brown rice paella." I am totally going to make it this way! Thanks

Michelle Chin said...

I made brown rice paella as well. I googled yours up after making it.

I thought I was the only freaky one who dared to jump into the art of using brown rice for paella.

I used tumeric but only a quarter teaspoon for the colour. The chorizo pretty much did a good job for killing the tumeric's flavour but bringing out it's colour.

I hope you read this though. :) And you can check out the paella thing on my blog. i took a picture of it even. :)

Michelle Chin said...

i think it's healthier and crunchier...

I mean, if a paella were to turn out to look like risotto, then it would be a pretty unconvincing paella...

Jan said...

Hi Judy,

Your paella recipe sounds delicious!
How many people does this serve?

Jan said...

Hi Judy,
Your paella recipe sounds delicious! How many people will this serve?

Judy said...

Jan, this recipe will easily serve 8 to 10 people. There were 6 of us and two of the men, big eaters, had second helpings. We had plenty left over too.

W said...

I, too, found this by googling 'brown rice paella'. I used a different recipe, but brown rice paella does indeed work, and I highly endorse it. It's perhaps not what a purist would do, but the flavors do work and it's healthier - so there.

I would recommend not using tumeric, as it is not a substitute for saffron at all. You only need a pinch of saffron. Tumeric goes with Indian and North African cooking - imo, it doesn't go with paellas, at least not with ingredients like Italian sausage.