I love paella, and I find it fascinating as a New Orleanian cook; seems to me that this is the origin of our own jambalaya. I've also stumbled across a west African dish called Jollof Rice, and these two influences probably played a big part in the development of what we in Louisiana now know as jambalaya.

This first recipe was posted to the "Chefs on the Internet" mailing list by Chef John Eddy, who says, "I came by this recipe about 15 years ago when I was sous chef at a Mediterranean restaurant owned by a great chef named Kasseem al Robaie. His family owned restaurants in Baghdad, and this is their recipe. The second recipe is from home chef extraordinaire Arne Adolfsen. Buen Appetito!"

And if you're wondering ... it's pronounced <pa-AY-ya>, with the emphasized middle syllable rhyming with "bay". Don't even think about saying <PIE-ELLA> ...

Cut up the lobster, removing the stomach and intestinal vein. Without removing the shell, cut tail crosswise into 1 inch slices, and split the body in half lengthwise, then crosswise into quarters. Set aside.

Clean and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact. Scrub clams and mussels well, and remove the "beards" from the mussels.

Place sausages in skillet and prick them with knife. Add water to cover completely and bring to the boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, cool and slice into 1/2 inch rounds.

Season chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. Brown chicken in 1/4 cup of olive oil until it becomes a rich golden brown. Remove to plate. Add the lobster to the oil remaining in the skillet and cook 2-3 minutes till pink. Lightly brown sausage slices in same fashion.

Make sofrito by discarding fat remaining in skillet and add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Add pork, garlic, onions, pepper strips and tomato. Stirring constantly, cook briskly until most of the liquid in pan evaporates and the mixture is thick. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 14-inch paella pan, combine the sofrito, rice, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the saffron. Pour in the boiling water, and stirring constantly, bring to the boil over high heat. Remove the pan from heat and taste to correct seasoning.

Arrange the chicken, lobster, sausage, shrimp, clams and mussels on top of the rice and scatter the peas at random over the whole. Set the pan in bottom part of oven and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. At no point should the paella be stirred after it goes in the oven.

When the paella is removed from oven, drape a kitchen towel loosely over the top and let it rest for 5-8 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve at the table directly from the pan.

Note: Vary the combinations of chicken, meats and shellfish, if you like, to suite your taste. We often used rabbit to replace the chicken ... with delicious results.

A piútardi,
Chez John
PVO ProVisions Online

Paella a la Arne

Here's another terrific recipe for paella, graciously provided by home chef extraordinaire Arne Adolfsen:

"I've been asked a couple of times for the recipe for the paella I made last weekend for Mike and Aric and Ellen and Alan and Ken and Howard and me. It's taken me several days to reconstruct it all since I didn't keep any notes. I based it on three existing recipes (from Larousse Gastronomique, Maria Josefa Lluria de O'Higgins's A Taste of Old Cuba [the most important inspiration here, actually], and Keith Floyd's Floyd on Spain), but I improvised on top of that. If you use the quantities I did, you'll have to use two paelleras at least 12 or 13 inches in diameter each, or one gigantic one that's 24 inches in diameter. You'll end up with more than enough paella to feed 8-10 people.":

For the stock:

For the rest of the dish:

Making the stock:

1. Kill the lobsters by severing the artery at the base of their necks. Or have your fishmonger or someone else do it for you if you're as squeamish as I turned out to be. Cut off their tails and claws. Leaving the shells on, cut the lobster tails into pieces at their natural divisions. Place the cut-up tails and claws into a covered container and refrigerate. Throw the lobster's torso and head and so on into a large stock pot.

2. Shell and devein the shrimp, throwing the shrimps' shells into the stock pot along with the lobsters. Refrigerate the shelled shrimp in a covered container.

3. Scrape the carrot and chop into 4 or 5 pieces. Dump it into the stock pot. Peel the onion and throw it into the stock pot. Roughly chop half of a green or red bell pepper and throw it into the stock pot, too. Peel some garlic cloves and add them along with a couple bay leaves, tablespoon salt, and some black peppercorns.

4. Add water to cover (and, if you have some on hand, a cup or two of fish stock), bring to a boil and then lower the heat and cover, simmering it for about an hour. Strain the stock and reserve and throw away the solids.

Making the paella:

1. Heat your paellera(s)and add enough olive oil to be respectable. (Use your judgment: about a half cup, maybe more, per pan.) Saute, in batches, the chicken breasts, rabbit, and cut-up chorizo until they color a bit. (You don't want to cook them completely, but you don't want them raw, either, and besides, you want the chicken and rabbit to be goldeny.) Remove the chix and rabbit and chorizo and set aside.

2. Saute your 2 or 3 chopped up medium onions along with 1 1/2 chopped-up bell peppers (1 whole green and 1/2 a red) over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Add some minced garlic (however much you'd like) and saute for a couple more minutes. Add a couple crumbled bay leaves, some chopped-up tomatoes that you've peeled and seeded already, and a hefty pinch of saffron. Don't be stingy with the saffron. Add the cayenne (a teaspoon or more, depending on how much bite you want it to have) at the same time you add the tomatoes and saffron. Saute this stuff for a few minutes until the tomatoes just start to break down and form a syrupy sauce with the olive oil.

3. Stir in the rice, making sure you've got everything nicely mixed together, and then pour in 6 or so (use your judgment) cups of the lobster broth. Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the broth up to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, then add the pre-sauteed chicken and rabbit and chorizo. Cook for another 5 or so minutes until the rice starts to plump up a little bit.

4. Add the cut-up lobster tails, shrimp, crab claws, squid (which you've cut into rings), clams, mussels, crawfish, and whatever other similar kind of creature you bought for the paella. Make sure to bury this stuff as much as you can into the rice. Mix it all up very well, then pour in the wine.

5. Let this entire mess o' stuff cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, by which time the rice will have absorbed most of the liquid and the clams and mussels will have opened and everything should be nicely cooked. While it's getting to that point you should stir it all around a little from time to time, but don't stir it up all the way from the bottom: you want a nice crusty thing to happen down there. A few minutes before it's ready stir in the peas and/or green beans, and put 1/2 of that red pepper you have left over -- and have cut into strips -- on top. When it's done, remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes. Garnish with lemons cut into smallish wedges and scatter a little chopped flat-leaf parsley on top.

We had fabulous white wine with the paella last week, but I have since found out that red wine is traditional, even for all-seafood paellas.

-- Arne


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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)