Saturday, September 7, 2013

Turkey Paella

A few years ago, we got a paella pan as a wedding gift.  Making paella has been on my short list of things to do, but, I have had a hard time deciding on which recipe to make.  Basically, there are three types of paella: (1) Paella Valenciana; (2) Paella de Marisco; and (3) Paella Mixta.  There are, however, many more paella recipes that use a wide range of ingredients, including some that I have been wanting to cook with for a long time, such as rabbit.  That variety left me thinking and overthinking my first foray into paella.

It took a very stressful period at work to finally push me into making a paella.  Clare's parents were visiting and, given everyone eats turkey, I decided to make a paella.  Although I spent a lot of time thinking about making a true Spanish paella (focusing particularly upon a Paella Valenciana), I did something very un-Spanish.  I made a turkey paella.

The turkey is the centerpiece of this paella.  I used turkey thighs, because I think the darker meat has more flavor than turkey breast.  I also used a turkey sausage, which was made in a mild Italian style, in the place of chorizo.  Finally, I decided to use turkey stock rather than chicken or seafood stock.  The 1-2-3 combination of turkey thighs, sausage and stock guaranteed that the paella would have a good solid turkey flavor.  To round out the dish, I decided to use some traditional paella ingredients, such as roasted peppers, artichokes, and peas.

One last note: Paella is traditionally made with a particular type of rice, like Valencia or bomba rice.  However, if you are like me, you might not have that rice in your pantry.  A good substitute is arborio rice, which is the same type of rice you would use to make risotto.  Although you would normally stir arborio rice a lot when making risotto, the rice does not have to be stirred when making paella.   

Recipe adapted from Saveur
Serves 6-8

1 to 2  pounds boneless skinless turkey thighs, cut into 2" pieces
12 ounces of turkey sausage, cut into 1/3 inch slices
3 medium tomatoes, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 box of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
8 ounces of fresh or frozen peas
3 jarred roasted red peppers, torn into ½"-thick strips
30 threads saffron, crushed (a scant ½ tsp.)
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
3 dried bay leaves
7 cups of turkey broth
2½ cups short-grain rice, preferably Valencia or bomba
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Prepare the base of the rice.  Put the saffron and ¼ cup hot water in a small bowl and let sit for 15 minutes. Season turkey thighs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 16"–18" paella pan over medium-high heat. Add the turkey thighs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove the thighs and add the turkey sausage.  Cook the sausage, turning occasionally, until browned for about another five minutes.  Add the turkey thighs back to the pan and then add the paprika, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, and onions.  Cook all of the ingredients, stirring often, until onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add reserved saffron mixture and broth.  Season with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.

2.  Cook the rice and remaining ingredients.  Sprinkle in rice, distribute evenly with a spoon, and add artichokes, peas, and peppers. Cook, without stirring, until rice has absorbed most of the liquid, which should take about 15–20 minutes, although it may take longer.   Also, if you pan is like mine, which is larger than the burner, rotate the pan every few minutes to make sure that different parts of the paella are over the heat and the rice cooks evenly.)  Cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid and is al dente. Remove pan from heat, cover with aluminum foil, and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Overall, this paella was very delicious, and it paired very well with a good white wine, such as the Las Colinas del Ebro Garnatxa Blanca from Catalonia.  The use of turkey made for an interesting twist on a traditional Valencian dish.  It also provides an interesting inspiration for what to do with leftovers from Thanksgiving.  But, that will be left for another post.


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