Sunday, 14 April 2013

spanish jambaella rice...

Growing up, the reprieve from a steady dinner diet of meat-potatoes-veg came in one of two forms.  First, there was the always popular spaghetti; a dish my Mom claims was practically unheard of growing up in 1950s Vancouver. The other option, however, would have to go down as my favourite childhood meal, Spanish Rice; an easy one-pot supper of belly-filling rice, vitamin-based veggies, and protein provided in the form of hot dog wieners.

It wasn't until my late teens that I discoverd that Mom's special Spanish Rice was based on an the traditional Spanish rice dish, paella. I recall finding paella in a cookbook one day (this was 20 years before "googling" something); a recipe that opened up a world of exotic and alternate ingredients like "chorizo," "saffron," and "calamari."  We attempted this "new" version of Spanish Rice and were surprised at how yellow it became; a bit too yellow as I believe we were heavy-handed with the expensive saffron.

A few years and another garage-sale cookbook later, I was excited to discover a likely "missing link" in the road from the Spanish paella to Mom's Spanish Rice: jambalaya. It was a period when I was into anything spicy, so the complex, cayenne-based heat of the jambalaya was yet another revalation in rice. Jambalaya is essentially a fusion of Spanish paella with French techniques (e.g. the roux and mirepoix) and African-inspired spices.

With rice on hand and these dishes in mind, the other day I decided to make Spanish Rice....or was it paella....or should it be jambalaya. It wasn't until I became stuck in this decision-making process that I realised how they share a base beyond just the rice, with additions and substitutions occuring along the way. Like Mom's own version of Spanish Rice, recipes for paellas and jambalayas vary from household to household, but the below flow chart gives an idea of how these 3 yummy rice dishes are created:
Spanish Jamba-ella Rice
2 tbsp. Olive Oil  
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, diced (or 1 x 400ml can diced tomates, drained)  
2 cups rice   4 cups chicken stock  
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Spanish Rice/ Paella
1 Chicken Brest, cubed   2 chorizo sausages
1 Cup green peas
1 dozen prawns, shelled   300g calamari rings  
1 bell pepper, chopped   ¼ cup chopped parsley  
Spanish Rice
2 tbsp. flour 1 tbsp. paprika 3 hot dog wieners, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced 2 - 4 threads saffron
1 tsp. each cumin, oregano
allspice, cayenne pepper

Now that we have an idea of what goes into each dish, how are they made? More fun with flow charts to explain:

Spanish Rice
Heat Olive Oil in a large Skillet
Add flour and fry until thick and golden
Add onions and garlic. Fry until fragrant and onions turn golden
Add chicken and chorizo. Fry until skin is no longer pink
Add wieners. Fry 2 minutes
Add celery and bell peppers
Add bell peppers
Add rice and fry until golden. Add tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, salt, and pepper
Add spices
Add paprika and saffron
Bring liquid to a boil. Cover, simmer on medium-low 20 minutes or until rice is cooked.
Add Seafood & Parsley
Add Seafood, Peas, & Parsley
Add peas
Cover again and cook another 10 minutes over low heat. Serve warm.

It may look confusing, but the point is to show how at each step, you can fuse a bit of jambalaya to your paella and create your own version of Spanish Rice!

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