Issu d'une vieille famille juive de New York, Mark Bittman est en charge d'une des chroniques gastronomiques du New York Times. Il nous livre une recette pour réussir la paella à la maison.
Je vous invite à voir ce petit film qui vous donnera envie de vous lancer à l'aventure.
Le restaurant visité par Mark Bittman est l'Alter à Picassent (autre référence, ici), dans la région de Valence.
The Homey Joys Of Simple Paella
YOU wouldn't know it from the elaborate meat-and-shellfish dish in Spanish restaurants, but paella has simple roots. Like most peasant dishes gone ritzy, paella is quite comfortable back in the home kitchen. Indeed, a plain rice-and-shrimp dish can be as much a ''real'' paella as the $25-a-plate version.
The name ''paella'' refers not to a combination of rice, seafood, sausage and other meats, but rather to the paellera, a large pan that looks like a flat wok. The only ingredient common to every traditional paella is rice, which makes sense, since the dish originated in Valencia, Spain's great rice-growing region.
Some argue that true paella must contain either meat or seafood (never both), that it can be prepared only in a paellera or that it must be cooked outdoors over wood. Perhaps they're all right. What's clear to me is that you can produce the fabulous rice dish I call paella in just over a half-hour, which makes it a great option for weeknights. The trick is to start it on the stove and finish it in a superhot oven.
I don't have a paellera, and I'm not about to buy one, so I use a cast-iron skillet. Although I'm a great fan of nonstick cookware, here it would be counterproductive, since one of the great joys of a paella is the crust of rice that forms on the bottom. To encourage that to form, I finish the paella in an oven that is as hot as I can get it, usually on a baking stone for good measure.
The rice must be short or medium grain. Since Valencia rice is not easy to find, I usually use arborio, now sold just about everywhere, or cheaper American or Asian short-grain rice. Saffron is the essential seasoning, and a chicken stock laced with this pungent spice makes the best liquid, although you can substitute a simple stock made from shrimp shells if you like (water is a desperate but acceptable alternative).
Shrimp is my first choice as a featured ingredient, but the alternatives are numerous: chicken, chorizo or other sausage, peas or other vegetables, scallops, pork, firm tofu. Combine them at will: anything less than a half inch thick will cook through by the time the rice absorbs the liquid.
Half of this recipe (in an eight-inch skillet) will make a side dish for four.
THE MINIMALIST'S PAELLA
Time: 30 minutes
4 cups chicken stock (see text)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cups short- or medium-grain rice
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
2 cups raw peeled shrimp, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Minced parsley for garnish.
1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, or as near as you can. Warm the stock in a saucepan with the saffron. Place a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. One minute later, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the rice, and cook, stirring occasionally, until glossy -- just a minute or two. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and add the warmed stock, taking care to avoid the rising steam. Stir in the shrimp, and transfer the pan to the oven.
3. Bake about 25 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is dry on top. Garnish, and serve immediately.
Yield: 4 main-course servings.