Adios, Spain. It’s been real, but first…Paella Valenciana

Adios, Spain. It’s been real, but first…Paella Valenciana
Alas, after three very appetizing weeks, I’m moving on, but not without making paella.  Of course paella! How could I leave Spain without making what some would consider the national dish?! Plus, my last region to hit, Valencia, is thought by many (especially Valencians) to be the birthplace of paella. The name actually comes from the vessel in which it’s cooked, much like tagine (more on that later-get excited!).  It’s a low, shallow pan of sorts, designed this way to ensure uniform cooking.  I’d been dreaming since I “stepped foot” in this country about the seafoody-goodness that awaited my belly at the end of my Spanish voyage. However, after doing my due diligence and talking to Apple Crisp, I came to find out that when prepared the traditional Valencian way, paella does not contain seafood. What?!  My heart was broken.  The source I trusted most was the book The Foods & Wine of Spain by Penelope Casas.  It was a very interesting and comprehensive read of Spanish food in general and it made a very strong case for what the author considers the REAL paella.  So there it was…no fish for me.  Utilizing all the produce and fruits of the area, the basics are snails, rabbit, green veggies, beans and short-grained Valencian rice.  Luckily, I actually had some rabbit in the freezer leftover from my hasenpfeffer stew but to my surprise (and I’m sure yours as well), I could not find snails at my grocery store.  Apparently they are not local treasures from the Chicagoland area. As such, I’m adding shrimp and some mussels as a swap.  I also used short grain brown rice rather than white, I figured “short-grain” being the important part.  So, while my version here is more of a paella mixto and may not be what true Valencians consider paella, my conscience is clear since I have imparted to you the correct information. Do as I say, not as I do.
paella1
For more info on this and Spanish food in general, check out the book.  This site was also pretty neat:   www.cookapaella.com
Serves 4-6
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups short-grained brown rice
3 1/4 cups broth, warmed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped green beans
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 rabbit (or chicken)
1/2 pound shrimp
1/2 pound mussels
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2-1 tsp smoked paprika
pinch saffron
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
Lemon juice, to taste
olive oil, about 3 TBSP
Directions
1.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2.  Heat the oil in a large, deep saute pan.  Saute onions and peppers until soft. Move to the side of the pan.
3.  Coat the rabbit pieces with the paprika. Fry until cooked, about 4 minutes on each side. Move to the side of the pan with the peppers.
4.  Add the tomatoes and garlic. Saute.  Stir in the rice, stock and spices. Boil.
5.  Cover the pan, place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  After that time, take out of the oven, stir the rice and add the green beans.  Add back to the oven and leave in there until the rice is cooked.  Take out of the oven, add the peas, seafood and mussels. Cover, and let sit about 10 minutes until seafood is cooked through (mine took about 45 minutes, but I think the lengthy time was from using brown rice).  Garnish with lemon juice.
paella2If you could only smell it!  

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