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Updated Southern Cooking:
Paella with Roasted Meats

John Tullock

Although the seasoning is a bit different, the technique for this dish is that of the classic paella of Valencia, Spain, (i.e., it lacks seafood) and like that dish this one is best cooked over an open fire. If you have no paella pan, a large cast iron skillet works just fine. If an open fire is not an option, use a charcoal or gas grill, or start the paella on top of the stove, then transfer it to a preheated 350°F oven for the last 20 minutes of cooking.

In either case, it is wise to have a little extra stock on the back of the stove to add in case the the rice dries out too quickly. The best way to test the rice for doneness is to remove some with a long handled spoon and carefully taste it. Preferences in the texture of cooked rice vary widely, I have learned. The short grained rice used in this recipe is usually cooked in slightly more than an equal volume of liquid, yeilding a finished product that is soft, but without any unabsorbed liquid remaining in the pan. To achieve this, additional liquid may be necessary, depending upon the particular variety, crop and age of the rice in your pantry.

Have ready in a bowl 1 medium red onion, finely chopped, and 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped. In a separate small bowl combine 1 minced clove garlic, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Chop enough leftover roast chicken and/or pork to yeild 2 cups of half inch pieces. To the cooked meats add 1/2 cup of fresh or thawed frozen green peas, or blanched, chopped green beans or snap peas, or a combination of all three. This prep can be done hours before you are ready to serve the paella, and the ingredients held, covered, in the refrigerator.

Prepare a hardwood fire underneath a cooking grate, or start a hefty pile of charcoal in the grill. (Youıll need enough coals to provide a hot fire for about an hour.)

Place 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy cast iron skillet or a paella pan and heat until the oil is fragrant. Add the onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring occassionally, until the onion is just translucent. Add the seasonings and cook another 2 - 3 minutes. Add 1-1/3 cups short grain rice, preferably imported from Spain, and stir well until the rice is coated with the oil and slightly translucent, but not browned. Add 1-1/2 cups hot chicken stock and bring to a boil. Move the pan to one side, or adjust the flame if cooking indoors, and fold in the chopped meats and vegetables. Pat down the rice and cook gently, without stirring, adding additional hot stock as necessary, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Taste carefully, adjusting the seasoning if necessary. Serve the paella immediately from the pan. Many people like it with bottled hot sauce.

A bowl of chilled gazpacho or a crisp green salad, depending upon the season, and a loaf of crusty bread, are all thatıs needed to complete this meal. Paella is perfect for a fall weather cookout or campout. If you are not the mountaineering type, paella can also be incorporated into the tailgate party before the game. For traveling, simply place all the ingredients, chopped and/or measured and grouped as suggested by the recipe, in plastic containers. Transport everything in a cooler. Freeze the chicken stock in a zip closure bag the day before, and it will slowly thaw in the cooler while helping to keep the other ingredients cold. You can even add cold or partially frozen stock directly to the pan, dispensing with an extra pot , although this will increase the cooking time.

This recipe yeilds four generous servings, and doubles easily.


John Tullock is an expert gardener and self-taught cook who likes to develop new recipes using his own fresh produce and the best from the local market. His interest in plants and horticulture begin in childhood, and he holds a masters degree in biology from The University of Tennessee. He also co-owns "Native Sons Nursery," a retail business that specializes in rare ornamental and gourmet vegetable plants.

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