Classic Spanish paella–that beautiful yellow-hued rice dish studded with meat and seafood and cooked in a big shallow pan–gets a double twist today! The resulting recipe isn’t authentic in the least, but what good is food if you can’t experiment now and then?
Twist number one: quinoa takes the place of Spanish rice in this recipe. Quinoa is as easy to cook as any other whole grain, and the fact that it’s packed with dietary fibre and more protein than most other grains doesn’t hurt either.
For twist number two, I cooked the paella in handy foil packs suitable for the oven or grill instead of in a pan. You won’t get those crispy bits on the bottom with this technique (the hallmark of a good traditional paella), but that doesn’t take away from the deep flavours of the dish. Plus, there’s no mess to clean up afterward!
Paella can be made with legumes, meat, poultry or seafood or a combination. For this recipe I went with chicken breast and shrimp along with dried Spanish chorizo, a type of pork sausage.
The chorizo used in this recipe is different from the fresh kind you see in Mexican recipes. Mexican chorizo is sold raw and typically cooked by cutting open the casing and sautéing the crumbled meat with seasonings. Dried chorizo, on the other hand, is more like a pepperette in that it’s cured and doesn’t need to be cooked before eating. You can just slice it up and eat as is, or add it to different dishes.
Like most other types of sausage, dried chorizo is one of those “enjoy in moderation” foods. The good news is that a little goes a loooong way in the flavour department! The lean chicken and shrimp in this recipe also help offset chorizo’s not-so-healthy attributes. Chorizo has a smoky, slightly spicy flavour thanks to–what else?–paprika. It’s delicious stuff!
If you’re vegetarian, omit the animal products entirely and instead swap in some canned beans, lentils or chickpeas (and use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock). You’ll still get that pleasant smoky flavour from the paprika.
This recipe is a bit more involved than what I usually post, but it’s by no means difficult! You just need to take care to make sure the stock doesn’t spill out as you build the foil packs. Once you’ve assembled the foil packs, simply pop them into the oven or on the grill.
What do you plan on cooking this summer?
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 1 6-oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 10 shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 4 oz dried chorizo, sliced
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 pinches saffron
- 2 cups chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pre-heat the grill (or oven to 375F). Place two large rectangles of aluminum foil on the counter (use double layers) and carefully turn up the sides so the ingredients can't spill out while building the packs. Divide the first 7 ingredients equally among the foil packs. Carefully pour half the chicken stock into each pack and season with a little salt and pepper. Seal the packs by carefully bringing in the corners of the short edge to create a long rectangle and then folding a tight horizontal seam. If cooking on the grill, place over indirect medium-high heat and cook for 30-40 minutes. If cooking in the oven, place on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes. The paella is done when the chicken is cooked through (no longer pink inside) and the quinoa is cooked.
- Makes 2 foil packs.