Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Possibly Paella Plus a Week of Leftovers

Mr. Lemon and I honeymooned in Spain and somehow never managed to have a good paella. I know, loco. I travel with a checklist of food I want to try and while paella was certainly at the top of it, we found ourselves distracted by amazing ham, delicious fresh fish and other irresistible wine-friendly morsels. So a full year later, I still get a pang for paella.

Spanish Spaghettios anyone? At least it tasted bueno.

We recently played a variation on our Iron Chef game: Mr. Lemon shops for anything for $4 or under, with a total budget of $12, and I have to make the ingredients work for the week's menu. Among other items, Mr. Lemon picked up some fresh chorizo (uncooked, in casing). Half of the package turned into a sausage and pepper and onion dinner, but I saved two links with paella in mind.

This is Possibly Paella because I substituted brown rice to be a bit healthier and because I cooked it on the stove-top, pilaf-style. I found a Cooks Illustrated recipe for brown rice paella and then made it stove-top friendly since I didn't want to heat up the kitchen (oh, and didn't have all their ingredients). And since this is a lot of work (I'm not going to say this was easy), I made enough for a few rounds of leftovers.

Plus there is more than one type of leftover: I cooked up a batch of chicken stock for this dish, so I have half a pot left for soup (or the freezer) plus two poached chicken legs for more meals.

In terms of thrift, this was a great way to feature shellfish without breaking the bank (1/2 lb. for $3.50) and the chicken stock I made with just $2.50 of chicken legs. A big can of pureed tomato came in under $2 and there's half left for some veggie chili down the road. And I found a big 32 oz. bag of brown rice for a little over $2 which will live happily in our pantry for many weeks to come. And of course, this is a lot cheaper than a flight to Spain.

Possibly Paella

2 fresh chorizo links
1/2 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow or red pepper, chopped
2 cups brown rice
14 oz. pureed tomato
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (about 8)
1 dried bay leaf
5-6 cups chicken stock, boiling
1/2 lb. shrimp, cleaned and with shell on

In a dutch oven, cook the chorizo with enough water to come half way up the link. Cook until brown on all side. Remove and set aside. The chorizo is not fully cooked at this point, so don't nibble on it! Dump the water.

Back in the dutch oven, pour about 2 Tablespoons olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and pepper. Add the brown rice and stir in the pureed tomato, saffron and bay leaf. When the rice is fully coated, add 3 cups of hot/boiling chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn back the heat a bit to a simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes. I checked on it occasionally and stirred because it can burn on the bottom. You will need to add 2-3 more cups of stock to get the rice soft. It won't be as "fluffy" as a paella from the oven, but the flavor is definitely authentic.

Slice the chorizo and add into the mixture. Add stock if the rice is looking dry. Cook another 15 minutes, covered. Once the rice is al dente add in the shrimp and if you have it shredded chicken (I used one chicken leg's worth from the stock). Cook until the shrimp are opaque about 10 minutes more. Serve hot and enjoy your hard work.

A little wet, but it sure tasted right
Lots of leftovers and spin off meal ideas
A thrifty way to include some shellfish
A lot of fiber-rich brown rice with a hint of naughty porkiness

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