I have known Renée all my life. She called my dad Uncle Hershey because of all the Hershey bars that he would bring to her family on Christmas, Easter, and birthdays. Renée attended college in Spain, and met and later married a Spaniard who serenaded her below her balcony. It all sounded so romantic. On her visits back to Santa Barbara, our families always got together, and she made the delicious paella she had learned in Spain from her husband’s Uncle Alphonso. I still have my handwritten index card with this recipe, and at the top I wrote just two words: “Yum Yum!”
2 tablespoons (30 g) olive oil
1 whole chicken, cut in pieces or 2 1/2 to 3 pounds (1 to 1.3 kg) chicken thighs—skin on will brown best
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 or 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 good-sized pinch saffron, about 20 strands (mash a little with the back of a spoon)
1 cup (130 g) peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup (120 g) pitted black or green olives
2 cups (400 g white rice, uncooked
5 cups (1.2 l) chicken stock
1 pound (450 g) prawns or large shrimp of your choice, peeled and deveined shrimp (optional)
In a large cast-iron skillet or pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the chicken pieces for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until light golden brown. Remove from pan, drain on paper towels, or put in strainer to let the extra oil drip through. Set aside.
Turn the heat to low under the pan, add more olive oil if needed, add the garlic and onion, and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onion is brown on the edges. Stir occasionally.
Add green pepper, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomato, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the parsley, salt, mashed saffron, peas, and olives, and stir gently to mix.
Stir in the rice and stock. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer, cook for 15 minutes.
Add pieces of chicken, and optional shrimp. Continue cooking for another 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the shrimp over occasionally, or bury them deeper into the rice. Add more chicken stock as needed.
When the rice is soft and the liquid is absorbed, the paella is ready.
Note: You can add chorizo or hot or sweet Italian sausage. Cut into pieces and pan-fry, and then add to the paella when you add the chicken. I use saffron from Trader Joe’s for this recipe.
“Uncle Alphonso’s No-Fuss Paella”, from HOME COOKING WITH KATE MCDERMOTT by Kate McDermott. Copyright © 2018 by Kathleen L. McDermott. Used by permission of The Countryman Press.
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