Martha+Tom

Fall Paella

Although there are plenty of delicious steaks, pork chops and sausages routinely on offer at Clancey’s Meats & Fish, it’s the more exotic offerings that keep me going back. For example: the time I got my goat. More recently, I was greeted by the sight of fresh — not frozen — rabbits, curled up in their individual plastic bags asking me to take them home. Having recently been daydreaming through my various Spanish cookbooks, rabbit had me thinking one thing: paella. It doesn’t hurt that Clancey’s also sells a kick-ass fresh chorizo.

P is for Paella

I usually think of paella as a summer dish (perhaps because I’ve only been to Spain in the summer) but it is a great meal for the fall as well. You can’t get fresh peas or red peppers, but carrots and parsnips can lend a moderate, earthy sweetness to the dish, and brussels sprouts can provide the necessary green. Fall is also the time when a hunter can easily come home with a brace of fresh rabbits.

Things are getting spicy

While the vegetables used in paella can be flexible — indeed, they should be modified to match the season, what makes the paella a paella for me is the flavors of saffron and paprika (Valencians and anyone else are free to dispute this). These spices combine to give the dish deep, floral warmth, complemented nicely by generous squeezes of lemon juice. It can be a challenge to extract a lot of flavor out of saffron, which is all the more of a shame given how expensive it is. For this paella, I tested a technique I saw practiced by an old master of paella on the infuriating yet strangely captivating PBS series Spain: On the Road Again: rather than soaking crumbled strands of saffron before adding them to the broth, I ground them together with salt. This gave the rice a noticeable saffron flavor and brilliant yellow color.

Paella for Fall

  • 2 cups small brussels sprouts
  • Olive oil
  • 1 rabbit, cut into pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1/2# fresh chorizo, cut into chunks
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 parsnips, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups short-grain rice
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 quarts chicken stock or water or a combination
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add brussels sprouts. Boil 5 minutes and then transfer sprouts to ice water. Drain and set aside. (You could also cook the brussels sprouts in the broth with the rice and the rest of the ingredients but overcooked brussels sprouts are bad news so do so at your own risk).

Place sea salt and saffron in a spice grinder and grind until pulverized.

Bring the stock/water to a bare simmer in a pot.

Cover the bottom of a paella pan or other large pan in a layer of olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add rabbit pieces and fry until golden on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Brown chorizo pieces and set aside.

Fall veggies for a change

Working over medium heat, add diced vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown. Add the rice and stir to coat grains with oil. Clear an area in the center of the pan and add olive oil. Add the salt-saffron mixture, the paprika and the garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir everything in the pan together. Add most of the simmering stock and the reserved meats and bring to boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until stock is absorbed. Try the rice; if it still feels underdone, add more stock and keep stirring.

As the last of the stock is absorbed, toasty aromas will start to emanate from the bottom of the pan. Don’t be alarmed! If you’ve kept your heat moderate enough, the rice isn’t burning; it’s reaching a crispy dark brown. This layer of cooked rice on the bottom — the socarrat — is the best part of the paella; it’s really worth turning off your burning rice radar in order to allow it to develop.

When you’ve got as much socarrat as you think you can stand, turn off the heat and stir in the reserved brussels sprouts. Jam the sprig of rosemary in the center of the rice and cover. Let stand ten minutes.

You can serve the paella by placing it in the middle of the table, handing everyone a spoon and telling everyone to dig in, but side plates and forks and knives can be helpful for managing those intransigent pieces of rabbit. How ever you serve it, make sure to squeeze plenty of fresh lemon juice over top.

Fall Paella

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6 comments on “Fall Paella”

  1. Crystal 10 November, 2009 at 10:30 am

    I love the use of brussels sprouts :)

  2. Tom 10 November, 2009 at 10:35 am

    It occurred to me that they were basically giant peas.

  3. Linda 10 November, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Once again a great cooking lesson. The Butcher Shop used to sell rabbit on occasion. I once bought it and made it for the family. I still remember the questions asked around the table: “Are those his little legs, Mom?” No one ever asked questions like that about a chicken or a pig.

  4. Tom 11 November, 2009 at 9:09 am

    You know, it’s strange, but something about the rabbit parts seem slightly more connected to an actual animal than chicken or pork. Maybe it’s just because we’re more used to eating the latter two, but I’ve cooked a whole picnic roast in which the bones of the pig’s leg are very much intact and clearly from a pig and had no problem, while the little rabbit forelegs gave me some pause.

  5. Brett Laidlaw 11 November, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I was hoping to shoot a bunny on our Wisconsin land this week: every time I went out with the gun, no rabbits; every time I went out without gun, I flushed one or two…. Glad we can get the farmed kind.

    Your paella looks great, Tom, though I find the brussels sprouts addition a little dodgy (!). Clancey’s chorizo is indeed awesome–had some in a Portuguese-inspired soup last week. And if they ever have their pork-foie gras sausages again: just buy some. Truly extraordinary, and worth the steep price ($29.95/lb., but a little goes a long way).

    “…infuriating yet strangely captivating PBS series Spain: On the Road Again…” Touché!

    Thanks for another swell report~ Brett

  6. Tom 11 November, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I think grouse would be a great candidate for paella, if you could get enough of them.

    The brussels sprouts really worked in this, trust me! Really crucial for filling out those fall flavors. Safe to say if I am ever in Clancey’s and there is a sausage involving foie gras, I’ll get out the credit card.

    As for On the Road, I found myself equally drawn in by the amazing food (and the beautiful Claudia Bassols) as I was repulsed by Mario and Gwyneth’s insipid (and seemingly interminable) banter, only to be ultimately overcome with envy that they got to experience all that. But yeah, I watched every episode.

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