Friday, April 3, 2009

Spanish-Style Mixed Rice

I'm an improvisational cook. I look around, see what I have, and then make something out of it.

I don't usually plan out what I'm going to do; frankly, I have enough of that at work. The work me is methodical, systematic, detail-oriented, and exacting. The home me likes to be flexible, relaxed, and with no end point of where I have to be. I just do what comes to me.

On my way home from work, I was mentally going through what I had in the kitchen -- chicken thighs I had bought on sale, lite turkey kielbasa, red and green peppers, tomatoes, lemons -- and I thought "paella." I also knew I had shrimp and peas in the freezer, capers, chicken broth, and some chardonnay in the fridge, and saffron and smoked paprika in the pantry.

What I didn't have was Valencia rice or arborio rice, so I used good old Uncle Ben's, a rice I use when I'm making mixed rices, and instead of Spanish chorizo, the kielbasa. They work great in this Spanish-style mixed rice.

4 skinless chicken thighs
Smoked paprika
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/4-1/2 tsp. saffron
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
8 oz. kielbasa (1/2 of a pre-wrapped kielbasa), cut in rounds and then rounds cut in 1/2
12 jumbo shrimp, deveined, deshelled and defrosted
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup each green and red pepper
1 or 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 heaping tablespoon Spanish capers, drained
1 cup Uncle Ben's rice
1/2 cup peas (or more if you want more peas)
Chopped parsley
Lemon wedges

Sprinkle chicken thighs generously with, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika on both sides.

Heat a heavy-bottomed sauce pot over medium-high heat, deep enough to hold the chicken broth. When the pot is hot, add a little olive oil. Add the chicken thighs. Brown one side for a few minutes and then brown the other side. If there is a lot of fat in the pot after browning, take out the chicken and remove the excess fat. Place the chicken back in the pot over heat.

Add wine and let it simmer happily for a few minutes, so the alcohol can evaporate. Add chicken broth, saffron, and bay leaves and when the chicken broth starts boiling, turn down the heat, partially cover the pot, and let the chicken thighs gently simmer in the broth for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, add 1 clove of minced garlic to some olive oil in a bowl enough to hold the shrimp. Season the shrimp with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika and then add to garlic oil, mixing to distribute the oil and garlic over the shrimp. Put bowl of shrimp in the fridge.

When the chicken is done cooking, take it out of the pot and put it on a plate. Pour the broth into a pyrex liquid measuring cup; it should be about 2 cups. If it's more or less than that, adjust it so that's it 2 cups, adding water or more broth if need be.

Put the pot back on the stove and heat it over medium heat. Add kielbasa and brown, taking it out and setting it aside when it's done. Add a little olive oil and add onions, bell peppers, cumin, and salt. Saute for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the tomatoes, capers, and remaining garlic and cook three more minutes; the tomatoes will dissolve and blend in with the other veggies.

Stir in rice and cook another 5 minutes. [At this point, you can transfer the rice mixture to the rice cooker, add the kielbasa and chicken broth, turn it on and then proceed with recipe).

Add the kielbasa back and reserved stock. Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium-low or a gentle simmer. Cover.

Cook for twenty minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the stock isn't boiling but simmering. While the rice is cooking, cut up the chicken thighs into bite-size pieces.

After twenty minutes, add cut chicken thighs, along with the peas (you could also add the shrimp at this point, but I didn't). Cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes. After 5-7 minutes, the rice should be cooked and the liquid mostly absorbed. If there's still liquid, let it cook a few more minutes over low heat.

After you add the chicken thighs to the rice, heat a separate skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, lay down shrimp on the skillet, cooking 2 minutes on one side and 2 minutes on the other side. When you check the rice after 5-7 minutes, add the shrimp to the rice at that time.

When the rice is done, add minced parsley for color and serve with lemon wedges.

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