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Monday, May 19, 2014

Chicken Paella with Sugar Snap Peas in about an hour!



        There's no one dish supper quite on the level of a great paella.  It combines protein--sometimes several of them--with carbohydrates and then, for good measure, adds some vegetables. The one big drawback to paella is the interminable time a good one takes to make.  So this recipe from Bon Appetit caught my eye when the magazine put it in a feature called ‘Fresh and Easy Dinners’. It actually toppped their list, and was pictured on their cover.  If you’re ever had a paella in Spain, you know it is hardly ‘quick’ and involves a special paella pan. But this one uses any heavy skillet you have on hand and gets dinner on the table in about an hour.  Considering my memories of paella, that's simply astonishing.
          I distinctly remember being in Spain with my elderly parents when we ordered Paella for lunch in the Andulusian countryside.   The paella took an interminable amount of time to get to the table.  In the meantime, almonds and a enormous quantity of Sherry were served first and this proved to be a mistake.   A good hour passed of drinking the sherry and nibbling on the almonds.  Despite its gentile reputation, Sherry is high in alcohol at about 20%.  Compare that to a glass of Chardonnay at 13%.    By the time the paella appeared, both my parents had literally nodded off at the table.  I remember having to apologize profusely as I tucked into the paella solo. 
        Fortunately, this recipe lets you use any large skillet and, while I missed the crunchy rice that the traditional paella pan assures, the flavors are outstanding. It makes a wonderful mid-week casserole.  And, true to Bon Appetit’s word, it is certainly is a lot quicker to the table than my Andulusian version was.  You might have time for only a glass or two of sherry and it will be ready to serve.   The addition of the Sugar Snap peas adds both crunch and a wonderful green accent to the dish.  And Sugar Snaps say Spring to me.  Here’s the recipe: 
Recipe for Chicken Paella with Sugar Snap Peas
Serves 6. Takes about 1 hour to make. 

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/4 teaspoons smoked paprika*

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 large chicken thighs with skin and bones, excess skin and fat trimmed (about 2 1/2 pounds)

4 ounces 1/4-inch-thick slices fully cooked smoked Spanish chorizo**

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups long-grain rice

2 cups low-salt chicken broth

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers from jar

½  lb. sugar snap peas, trimmed (about 8 ounces)
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Mix white wine and saffron threads in small measuring cup; set aside.

Combine salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper in small bowl; rub spice mixture all over chicken thighs.

Heat heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add
chorizo and sauté until fat begins to render and sausage browns, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Transfer chorizo to large plate.

Add olive oil to skillet. Add chicken thighs to skillet and cook until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate with chorizo.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add long-grain rice and stir to coat. Add wine-saffron mixture and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet. Add chicken broth, tomatoes with juice, and roasted red peppers. Bring to simmer. Stir in browned chorizo. Place chicken thighs, skin side up, atop mixture in skillet. Cover skillet tightly with foil, then cover skillet with lid. Bake paella until rice is almost tender, about 25 minutes.

Transfer chicken to plate. Stir rice; season to taste with salt and pepper. Scatter snap peas over. Return chicken to skillet, nestling into rice. Cover with foil and lid. Bake until snap peas are crisp-tender, rice is tender, and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes longer.

* Sometimes labeled Pimentón Dulce or Pimentón de La Vera Dulce; available at some supermarkets, at specialty foods stores, and at Penzey’s in Grand Central Market, NY and from latienda.com.
** Spanish chorizo, a pork-link sausage flavored with garlic and spices, is milder than Mexican chorizo. It's available at specialty foods stores and Spanish markets and from latienda.com.