Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Turkey, Artichoke and Green Bean Paella

A while back, I made a Turkey Paella for Clare and her parents.  It was a wonderful combination of turkey thighs, turkey sausage, artichokes, roasted peppers and other ingredients.  Ever since that time, I have wanted to make a Paella for my parents.  Recently, when my parents were visiting us, I had the opportunity to make the dish for them.

I came across an article about Paella written by Mark Bittman, a food columnist for the New York Times magazine.  Bittman opened the article by noting that he had been accused of making arroz con cosas -- rice with things -- by the Catalans who lived near Valencia.  The accusation seemed serious, given Valencia is the home of paella.  It was also somewhat obnoxious, evincing an "air" that anything different that what may be produced over coals within the geographic boundaries of the Spanish is necessarily inferior.   

Mark Bittman appeared to be non-plussed by the critiques.  His response ... "paella really is just rice with things -- as is risotto, as is pilaf." 

More importantly, Bittman provides some useful insight and guidance into paella.  First, one needs rice, preferably short grain rice (such as risotto, but it should be Spanish bomba rice or Valencia rice).  Second, one needs olive oil.  Third, one needs vegetables.  After that, there are options.  The New York Times produced a very interesting graphic to depict the many options that are available to the cook:

This graphic is very helpful, although I did not follow it all for this paella.  Instead, I decided to make another turkey paella, but I decided to go a different direction with the recipe.  I found some grilled artichokes, which would help to provide some smoky flavors to the dish.  I also decided to use some green beans in place of peas.  The combination -- turkey, artichokes and green beans -- are all stuff my beautiful Angel loves to eat and, together, they made a great paella for my parents.

Bittman provides more advice.  He notes that water is most often used in paella, but stock is also acceptable.  Bittman suggests chicken stock or seafood stock.  While chicken stock would work, I found a turkey stock.  I felt that the turkey stock would help to deepen the turkey flavors in the stock.

Finally, Bittman notes that the one unusual aspect to paella is that the paella is not stirred.  The reason is that you want to achieve a browning of the bottom of the rice.  The Valencians have given a name to that browning ... "soccorat."  It is the signature feature of paella.  Bittman concludes, "should you achieve it, no one will say you've made arroz con cosas."

Needless to say, the Turkey, Artichoke and Green Bean Paella was excellent, except that I did not achieve that socarrat.  I guess that there is always the next time.

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4-6

2 1/2 pounds of turkey, cut into even sized, small pieces
1 pound of artichokes
1 pound of green beans
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper minced
1 tomato, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove minced
2 cups of Spanish Bomba rice (or Arborio rice)
4 cups of turkey stock
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 pinch saffron
1 bay leaf
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1.  Prepare the ingredients.  Heat the olive oil in a the paella pan.  Add the turkey in batches and cook until browned on all sides.  Remove and set aside.   Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the green beans.  Blanche the green beans for a few minutes and then remove to an ice bath to cool.  Drain and set aside.  Rinse the artichokes

2.  Make a sofrito.    Add the bell pepper, onion, tomato and garlic and cook until soft. 

3.  Add the main ingredients (other than the rice).   Add the turkey, artichokes and green beans to the pan.  Add the wine and allow it to reduce by half, about 1 minute.  Pour in the turkey stock and bring it to a boil.  While the stock comes to a boil, add the saffron to some hot water to rehydrate and then add the saffron and water to the pan, along with the bay leaf.  Season with salt. 

4.  Cook the rice.  Add the rice, taking care to spread it evenly around the pan.  Cook over medium-high heat 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.


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