It started with a dinner that I attended this past Monday night at Gilead Cafe, Jamie's cozy restaurant and staging arena for his catering business. The restaurant is an intimate space, and the room was jammed, filled with 30+ women there for a private cooking demo and dinner. On the menu: authentic paella, preceded by some yummy apps and followed by salad and luscious dessert.
I was particularly interested in the paella, because, IMHO, Richard makes a kickass paella. And I thought I could glean some tips to share back home. The trappings were certainly impressive. A HUGE paella pan. Proper Bomba rice. An array of ingredients, mise en place, at the ready. And a master chef to pull it all together.
Richard makes the world's best paella. And without further ado, over to Richard to tell you all about it.
I enjoy cooking although my culinary skills are limited. But, for some reason, I seem to have mastered a few dishes which never fail to impress. Having grown up in Montreal with the BBQ in use regardless of weather and season, I too barbecue year-round. On a particularly mild fall evening earlier this year, this dish was la piecè de résistance.
Paella on the barbecue.
As a BBQ purist, I rely on my charcoal Weber to give me the authentic barbecue taste I look for. Of course this recipe can easily be replicated on a gas BBQ. Whether using gas or charcoal you must ensure that the heat source covers the entire bottom of the BBQ in order to give an evenly distributed temperature.
Other than cooking the paella on an open flame, the other key component of this recipe is the broth in which all the ingredients cook. A velvety homemade broth using as its base the discarded shells of shrimps. These can be from shrimps you’ll cook in the actual paella or, as we have started doing, shells that we keep and freeze from shrimp cooked for other dishes. After sweating the shells in a pot and investing time and a handful of aromatic ingredients, you have a perfect base for a perfect paella.
I'm sure there are numerous versions of this famous Spanish dish, some more authentic than others, but I like the version where, like a treasure hunt, everyone can find something to satisfy; chicken, chorizo, shrimp and mussels.
Richard's Paella on the Barbecue
generously serves 8
For the shrimp broth
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)
2 tbsp olive oil
Shells reserved from 2 lbs medium shrimp
1 lg onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
¼ c tomato paste
¼ c dry sherry
2 quarts of water
6 lg garlic cloves, chopped
4 thyme sprigs
2 fresh bay leaves
1 large chipotle chile in adobo
Large pinch of saffron
For the paella
½ c olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
4 c medium-grain rice (if you can't find authentic Bomba rice, arborio can be substituted)
8-10 bone-in chicken thighs, with skin
½ lb. cured spicy chorizo, sliced
2 lbs mussels, cleaned and debearded
Any combination of 1-2 c green beans, corn, peppers, tomatoes, etc.
1-2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tails on (save the shells for broth)
Make the broth:
1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the shells and cook over medium heat until they are lightly browned. Add the onion and carrot and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to brown. Stir in the tomato paste, cook briefly, then add the sherry and bring to a boil for one minute more.
2. Add the water and bring to a boil. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes.
3. Strain the broth into a saucepan, pressing on solids to extract liquids. You should have at least 6 cups. Season with salt, and if proceeding with recipe, cover and keep warm over low heat. If making ahead, refrigerate for up to one day or freeze for up to one month.
Make the paella:
1. Light the barbecue. When coals are covered with light ash (or when heated to medium if using gas), place a 16-inch paella pan on the grate. Pour in olive oil and when it's hot, saute the onion and garlic for a minute or two, being careful not to brown. Add the rice, stirring for two minutes or so to coat the grains with the oil.
2. Add the reserved shrimp broth and let simmer for a few minutes so that the rice begins to absorb the liquid. Add the chicken thighs, tucking under the rice, cover the barbecue and let cook for 10 minutes.
3. Stir in the chorizo and vegetables, cover again and let simmer for two minutes. By this time, the rice will have absorbed much of the liquid as it cooks. Dot the rice with the mussels, pushing them into the rice mixture with your tongs. Cover and cook a further two minutes, or until the mussels have opened. Finally, add the shrimp, again pushing the shrimp into the rice, cover a cook until the shrimp are just pink.
4. Serve tableside from the paella pan, or spoon into a large serving platter, scraping up some of the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan.
Ed. note: It was a wee bit hard to pin Richard down to exact times and amounts. Like any good cook, he watches his food, improvising as he goes. That's particularly true of his cooking on the barbecue. Do the same - your paella will be the better for it.