Dance With the One Who Brung You: Two-Thirds-Assed Paella & Pistachio Biscotti

14 Mar

Hi. I'm Two-Thirds-Assed Paella

Do you ever show up at the grocery store with a super-detailed list of items that you simply must have to make the recipe you’ve been anticipating making (and eating!) all week long?

Do show up at the grocery first thing on the morning you’re cooking it, ready to spend the next 45 minutes or so running up and down the aisles, scouring the produce section for the perfect leeks, talking sustainable cockles with the fish mongers, debating the pros and cons of picante vs. dulce chorizo with the sausage dudes, delighting over the pupu platter of culinary choices?

Only to find that your favorite grocery store — the only one guaranteed to have all of the organic, sustainable yummies you need within reasonable spitting distance of your abode — is missing half of the items on your list?

If you’re anything like me, you become filled with livid, quaking rage, that no quantity of perky and viable substitutes will qualm. Your sputtering disdain for the capriciousness of the grocery store gods will cloud your brain in an impenetrable fog of IQ-plummeting vexation, causing you to forget even more items than you normally forget on the shelves.

When you arrive at home, with your grocery bag most definitely half-empty, you unpack and discover — d’oh! — you’re missing at least two-thirds of the items nominally required to make the perfect recipe.

The key word here, ladies and gentleman: nominally.

Because no number — no matter how daunting — of missing / essential ingredients, tools and skills with which I should be armed tackle a dish with anything approaching proficiency, I choose to take no prisoners and flail about the kitchen like some sort of dementia-addled, smack-addicted geriatric former linebacker having a panic attack. The alternative course, of sensibly making something else, is never even considered.

My mom calls it “Dance With the One Who Brung You” mode — an Emily Willcox-approved method of stoicism that has stiffened my spine and pasted a polite smile on my face through countless grueling teas, strained meetings and grim get togethers over the years.

A failed grocery store trip is how I ended up making my very first batch of Two-Thirds Assed Paella, a recipe that Stephen and I have come to love, it’s original, gaping holes still intact when we make it today. (Which is actually quite apt; there are as many ways to make “classic” Spanish paella as there are to make our national dishes, like Apple Pie and … Chili.) Below, check out recipe for Two-Thirds-Assed Paella, oh and a recipe for Pistachio Biscotti, just because it’s awesome.

Two-Thirds-Assed Paella

Inspired by the recipe in Larousse Gastronomique

Makes 10-12 generous portions

Ingredients:

  • 4.5 pound organic chicken
  • 3 onions, divided (two peeled and halved, the other peeled and diced small)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • bouquet garni
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 7.5 oz chorizo, diced fine
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, small dice
  • saffron, one pinch (don’t cheat)
  • 14 oz or so diced tomatoes (canned are fine)
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 5 oz clams (cleaned — canned are fine)
  • 6.5 oz conch (cleaned — canned are fine)
  • 2/3 lb. shrimp, deveined, peeled and cleaned
  • 1 1/2 cups corn
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

Method:

  • Break down the chicken into eight pieces and reserve the giblets (all of the innards) and the backbone. If you’re not sure how to fabricate a chicken, check out Cooking for Engineers’ guide, it’s great.
  • Take the backbone, giblets, season with salt and pepper, cover with plenty of water, about 3 inches worth of cover. Season with salt and pepper again. Bring to boil, skim off fat. Add 2 peeled onions, split into halves. Add 3 peeled garlic cloves, bouquet garni, bring to boil, cover partially and simmer for about an hour. Strain and reserve 4 cups stock for recipe; keep any extra for another purpose. Discard giblets, bone, etc.
  • Season the chicken parts with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a shallow paella pan or a Dutch oven, if you don’t have a shallow paella pan.
  • Sautee chicken in two batches in the oil, until all sides are golden brown. Set aside. Put the breasts back in the pot; because they’re bigger they take longer to cook, so to make sure all of the chicken is cooked through without over-drying the smaller pieces, I usually put them on low in my Dutch oven (covered) for another seven or so minutes. They will finish cooking in the oven.
  • Using the same oil, fry the chorizo, the onions and peppers, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go, for 3 or so minutes, until softened. Add saffron, cut heat and allow to soften for five minutes.
  • Crank up the heat again. Add tomatoes and cook down. Add rice and toss until every grain is coated in the fatty goodness. Add 4 cups stock, chicken, chorizo, all of the sea-faring items. Cover and place in 450 degree oven, covered for about 20 minutes. Add corn.
  • Put over heater on high until you smell rice toasting, about five minutes. If you can’t cook the paella outside over an open flame, this is a quick and dirty way to approximate what the toasty bottom crust should be — it’s not the same, but you knew that. This is Two-Thirds Assed Paella, after all.
  • Cover with kitchen towel off heat. Serve after 10 minutes with bread if you like.

Nutritional Breakdown for Two-Thirds-Assed Paella: This isn’t for the Weight Watchers crowd. At about 600 calories and 27 grams of fat a serving though, it’s certainly not a gut-buster. Great balance of protein / carbs / fat too, and since we have reps from the garden, the field, the barnyard and the ocean strutting their stuff in this dish, you can skip your multivitamin when you eat it.

Cost Breakdown for Two-Thirds-Assed Paella: About $66, or $5.50 a serving.

Verdict / In the Future: Squid, mussels, peas not corn, fancy Spanish rice, lobster, and many other lovely items often appear in paella, to great acclaim. Sub out at will. But for me, Two-Thirds-Assed Paella is the only way to go.

Pistachio Biscotti

Adapted from the lovely Martha Stewart’s wonderful recipe

Makes 40 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter, room temp
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup salted, roasted pistachios
  • 2 TBSP sugar in the raw

Method:

  • Mix flour, baking powder, salt in large bowl, set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. This always takes longer than I think it should. Make sure you wait until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add 2 of the eggs, mix, scraping down sides with spatula if necessary. Mix for about 1 minute, when eggs will start to increase in volume and everything is incorporated.
  • Add vanilla and mix. Stir in the flour in two batches — use a spatula and don’t overmix. Mix just until all the flour is mixed in. Add pistachios and lightly mix in with spatula. Mix everything in with your hands if necessary. Form three separate logs, about 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long. Wrap in plastic and put in fridge for one hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add 1 teaspoon water to egg, beat with fork for egg wash.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper, remove biscotti logs from plastic and brush top and sides with egg wash, using pastry brush. Sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until tops are just getting a little golden tan.
  • Remove from oven, put on wire racks to cool. (Remove carefully from baking sheet with large offset spatula). Reduce oven to 250 degrees.
  • Once cool, cut the logs with a serrate knife into 40 or so slices. Lay slices on baking sheet and toast for about 20 minutes, until crisp. (I like a bit of chew, so I let mine cook for about 15 minutes usually).

Nutritional breakdown for Pistachio Biscotti: About 70 calories and 2.5 grams of fat each. It’s a great, healthy afternoon snack with just the right blend of carbs, healthy fats and protein to provide you with a surprisingly sustaining little burst of energy.

Cost breakdown for Pistachio Biscotti: About $7 or $0.17 a serving.

Verdict / In the Future: My dad adores nuts but turns up his nose at them in any adulterated form (he’s a purist), and  furthermore, strongly feels like pistachios are Junior Varsity members of the Nut Team, adores Pistachio Biscotti. That’s how awesome these little gems are.

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