So, this blog post is different than my normal ones because it will start with two stories – not just one.
When I was in sixth grade, my dad had a heart attack right around Christmas. It was scary – he was okay – but one of my strongest memories from this time was the food people brought to our house. That's what people do during catastrophes – they feed you. One night, a tray of paella was deposited on our kitchen table and I remember examining it in awe.
I wish I could say I ate it and everything fell into place, and it changed my opinions on food forever… but I was a picky brat. I didn't eat any of it. Things in shells? Octopus? Peas? Sausage? Ick!
I realized when I got older what an idiot I was for passing up free paella. To this day, I live with regret.
A few years ago, another major life event occurred – Angelo and I kissed for the first time. I don't remember the exact date that we started dating – but always remember February 3 as our first kiss-aversary. (I always remember the date because it's easy: the Ravens won the Super Bowl that year and Angelo walked me partially home and we made out. Ta-da!) Even though now we have a new anniversary - I'd been dying to cook this meal and this presented the perfect opportunity.
One of Angelo's favorite meals is paella – he ate it every chance he could on our honeymoon – but we've never made it before and so I thought this would be a great opportunity to present my Greek husband with the meal of his dreams.
I wanted to do a more seafood focused paella so I searched and searched and searched. I finally settled on Jamie Oliver's seafood paella recipe because Jamie Oliver is who taught me to cook a milk chicken – and I figure he knows what he's talking about.
(What's a milk chicken, you may be asking? A blog post for another time.)
Anyways, I tweaked the ingredients list a bit – subbing a few ingredients, like scallops in for squid – but here goes it!
Lexington Market Paella
- 6 chicken thighs or 4 chicken breast cutlets
- Sea salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Plain flour, for dusting
- Olive oil
- 3.5 oz chorizo, sliced
- 6 slices pancetta
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 68 oz of hot chicken stock
- 2 pinches of saffron
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 lb. paella rice(We used aborio rice because we couldn't find paella rice. There are many debates regarding this, so I encourage you to do what feels right, but I'm just a girl who spent $20 on saffron and figured she could save a few bucks by using the rice in her pantry.)
- 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped, stalks chopped
- 2 handfuls frozen peas
- 10 jumbo shrimp
- 1 lb mussels
- ½ lb scallops
Ooooh-wheee, that's a long list of ingredients. If you're good about herbs and spices, as well as pantry basics, you might surprise yourself by already owning a bunch of it. If you're not super in the mood to spend a fortune on seafood – check out a local market. I trekked to Lexington Market on my lunch break and snagged all the seafood for way better prices than stores, while also talking to some lovely local, old school Baltimore fish dudes. Seriously – I asked for muscles and just got a hefty amount of old man flexing in return.
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Season and lightly coat the chicken in flour. Fry the chicken in oil until it's golden brown on both sides and then place on a baking tray and cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken.
3. Using the same pan you cooked the chicken in, fry the chorizo and pancetta until brown and crispy. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft.
4. While your onion and garlic are cooking, infuse half of your (already hot) chicken stock with the really expensive saffron. (Am I pointing out saffron is expensive too many times? Maybe. Just trying to prepare you for when you pick it up at the grocery store.) Add the paprika and rice and stock to your main pan and cook on medium heat, stirring from time to time.
5. After twenty minutes your rice should be almost fully cooked, so pour in the rest of the stock along with all the peas, prawns and mussels. Cover the pan and cook for ten minutes.
6. Once the ten minutes are up, add the scallops and cook for three minutes. This will give the remaining stock a little more time to soak up. If you think there's too much – remember, you still haven't added your chicken!
7. After ten minutes, add the chicken and sprinkle with chopped parsley and a wedge of lemon.
You did it! Paella! Enjoy your date night just like we enjoyed ours – with wine and a random Bruce Willis action movie from 2005. Or, you know, whatever floats your boat.
Thanks for reading and happy cooking!