Every ethnic cuisine has their form of a one pot, rice-based dish that usually includes some form of meat and/or seafood with vegetables. One of my favorite versions of this is Spanish paella. Paella is traditionally made in a large pan called a "paellera" (go figure) with short- or medium-grain rice and given its characteristic yellow color from saffron threads, as well as its distinct flavor. Paella varies from region to region in Spain, the coastal areas include mostly seafood in theirs, such as mussels, clams and shrimp. Other traditional versions feature Spanish dry chorizo and even snails. While traditonal versions of paella are absolutely wonderful (definitely a must-try ethnic dish), I am hardly a traditionalist so I felt I had to put my own spin on it.
First of all, I didn't feel like slaving over a hot stove to make my paella and I hadn't used my fabulous rice cooker in ages, so I busted that bad boy out and got to work. I know I've already raved about all of the amazing things a rice cooker can do in a short amount of time, but I feel I must again and pay homage to my dear friend and kitchen appliance. Did I also mention it can cook rice perfectly?
Anyway, I wanted to create a version of paella that wasn't too difficult for all you home cooks out there to make and included ingredients you could easily find at any grocery store. The great thing about this dish is that it is so versatile- you can use any meats or seafood that your heart desires, or make it without any meat at all. Also, I decided not to use real saffron because it is very pricey for even just a pinch of it. I'm being economical here, remember? I used that Spanish saffron rice in the yellow bag instead which is really good, in my opinion. So this is my "New World" version of paella, with its Spanish roots and Latin ingredients, like green olives, capers and Adobo seasoning, done a la rice cooker.
A few notes: this recipe, with prep, only takes around 30 minutes from start to finish- you can make it even faster by just throwing all of the ingredients through the chicken broth in the rice cooker and set it to 'cook' mode for about 15 or 20 minutes, then throw in the rest of the ingredients and let it cook for another 5 minutes (but making it my way brings out more of the flavors of the ingredients and you'll feel very accomplished too). I also suggest making this dish in mass amounts because it makes fantastic leftovers after all of the flavors have marinated overnight in the refrigerator. Comer con gusto!
Rice Cooker Paella
(serves 4-6; adapted from Rice Cooker Creations by Deb Murray)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
2/3 pound chicken breast, cubed into bite-sized pieces
3/4 pound pork sausage links in casing(i.e.: Italian-style), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons Adobo seasoning
1 cup yellow saffron rice (i.e.: Vigo brand)
3/4 cup dry white wine (i.e.: Pinot Grigio, Albarino, Sauv. Blanc, etc.)
1 cup chicken stock or broth (if making vegetarian-style, use water or vegetable stock)
1/4 pound small or medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup frozen peas, slightly thawed
1/4 cup green olives, sliced
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1. Set rice cooker to 'cook' and, with the lid open, saute the garlic, onion and bell pepper in the olive oil for about a minute before adding in the chicken and sausage.
2. Add seasonings (salt through Adobo), stir, and cook for about another minute or two- cooking the meats partially.
3. Add rice and stir, coating in the oil and allowing it to 'toast' a bit.
4. Add wine, cook for another two minutes while stirring, and then add the broth/stock. Close the lid and let cook for 15 minutes, opening the lid and stirring 2 or 3 times during this time.
5. Open the lid and add the shrimp through the capers, stir, close the lid and cook another 5 minutes.
6. Open, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve garnished with the chopped herbs.