What am I supposed to do with all this paella?

GEORGE: Ok, fine. It's going to be very interesting, very interesting if they don't show up tonight. You know my mother made all this Paella.

JERRY: What is that anyway?

GEORGE: It's a Spanish dish. It's a mélange of fish, an meat with rice. Very tasty.

I've started to notice that whenever someone asks me what I am doing for the weekend or what I did over the weekend, I often respond with what we plan on cooking or what we cooked. Cooking a meal together is like a date night for us and one of our favorite dishes to make is paella. After having it at our favorite tapas restaurant, Modesto, and then watching a live paella cooking demo in Mexico, we knew we had to give it a try.

Probably the most important thing to do first when making paella is to make the sangria. It took us 2 hours to make our paella dish...so, you'll need something to sip on. I opted for white sangria. This was adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. Martha rocks.

White Sangria
In a pitcher, dissolve 1/4 cup sugar in a 1/4 cup brandy. Slice 1-2 peaches. Pour in one bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. I used this one by Bogle. Add peaches. Before you serve, add 1 1/2 cups of club soda. Serve over ice. This stuff is awesome. You might want to double the recipe.

Next, you'll need a paella pan. I got ours from Paellapans.com. We have the 14" carbon steel pan, which serves 2 to 4 people. You can probably also find them at World Market.

The recipe we used is also from Paellapans.com. We usually make a seafood paella and this was the first time we went with only chicken and smoked sausage. Also, a tip on where to get saffron. I get it at World Market...for whatever reason, it is much cheaper there than at the local grocery store.

Paella with Chicken and Smoked Sausage
Serves four (ideal for 1 13 or 14-inch pan)
Adapted from paellapans.com

3 cups chicken stock; (we have learned to make 6 cups, just to be on the safe side)
Pinch of saffron threads, toasted and steeped in 1/2 cup hot stock
Salt to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 skinless chicken thighs, chopped in halves and seasoned with salt and pepper
1-2 smoked sausages, sliced
1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper, cored, seeded, and cut in 1-inch wide strips
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Grape tomatoes
1/2 medium onion, grated on the largest holes of a box grater
1 ripe tomato, halved horizontally and grated on the largest holes of a box grater (discard the skin)
1 1/2 cups medium grain rice
1 lemon, cut in wedges for garnish

In a saucepan, bring the stock to a boil; lower to a simmer. Add the saffron-infused liquid. Taste; the stock should be well-seasoned, so add salt if necessary. Let simmer until ready to add to the rice. Cut up the sausage and peppers.

Set a paella pan (14-inch diameter) over medium high heat with the olive oil, noticing if the pan sits level. If not, choose another burner or try to create a level surface. When the oil is hot, sauté the chicken pieces until golden and cooked through, 10 to 15 min. Transfer the chicken to a platter and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium low. In the paella pan, sauté sausage.

Transfer the sausage to a plate. If there is more than 1 Tbs. of olive oil in the pan, pour out the excess. Increase the heat to medium and sauté the onion until soft, about 5 min. Toss in the garlic, too.

Add the tomato and season well with salt, and sauté until the water from the tomato has cooked out and the mixture has darkened to a burgundy color and is a very thick purée, 10 to 15 min. (This tomato-onion-garlic mixture, called the sofrito, is the flavor base for the paella.)

On medium high heat, add the rice, stirring until it's translucent, 1 to 2 min. Stir or shake the pan to evenly distribute the rice.

Pour in about 2 cups of the simmering stock.

As the stock comes to a boil, lay the chicken pieces on top. Do not stir the rice once the water is boiling. Cook on medium high, rotating and moving the pan over one and two burners to distribute the heat and cook the rice as evenly as possible. When the rice begins to appear above the liquid, after 8 to 10 min., reduce the heat to medium low.

Continue to simmer, rotating the pan as necessary, until the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 min. more. Add the sausage. Taste a grain just below the top layer of rice; it should be al dente, with a tiny white dot in the center. (If the rice is not done but all the liquid has been absorbed, add a bit more hot stock or water to the pan and cook a few minutes more.)

Add the sliced peppers and grape tomatoes. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook gently for another 2 min. to help ensure that the top layer of rice is evenly cooked. With the foil still in place, increase the heat to medium-high and, rotating the pan, cook for about 2 min., until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating the socarrat. The rice may crackle somewhat, but if it starts burning, remove the pan from the heat immediately.

Let the paella rest off the heat, still covered, for 5 min. Sit everyone down at a round or square table. Remove the foil and invite people to eat directly from the pan, starting at the perimeter, working toward the center, and squeezing lemon over their section, if they want.

Sit down with a glass of sangria and enjoy! Since it probably took you most of the night to prepare, hopefully you still have a couple glasses left!

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