Himself makes Paella

You guessed it! I convinced Himself to write to you all again about something very near and dear to his heart. So without further ado, take it away!

Everybody within earshot knows how much fun I have making paella. If you’re from Valencia, you probably don’t want to read any further, because I took your wonderful idea and did non-traditional things with it; technically, this is arroz en paella.

They’re always based around one main ingredient — well, they are the way I make them, anyway — and recently, I based one on duck. It worked, so we’re sharing the joy and showing you how to make one yourself.

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Many of the quantities here are approximate, based entirely on what was available and what looked right at the time.

Main ingredient: duck fillet

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Supporting ingredients:
– red wine salami from the Haarlem market
– half a chorizo
– an onion
– 5 ñora peppers
– lots of garlic
– olive oil
– 300ml of puréed tomatos
– some carrots
– 400ml of chicken bouillon
– 200ml of dry white wine
– 250ml of Bomba rice (muggins here forgot to buy more; it would normally have been 300)
– saffron
– pimenton

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Important equipment:
– 40cm paella dish (it’s what my wonderful partner bought me, and makes enough for 4)
– saucepan large enough to boil 600ml of liquid
– sharp knife
– the rest can be improvised with whatever you have on hand

What I did:
– dice the seasoned meats, carrots and onion, and peel the garlic, to get these jobs out of the way
– pour the wine and bouillon into the saucepan. One less thing to think about later. Note that the bouillon instructions actually mention water, but I like what wine adds to the overall flavour.

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– prepare the ñora pepper: remove the stalk and seeds, leaving just the skins. Rip those up a bit, and toss them into the blender. Blend until powdered. Note to self: get a food processor.
– pour the powdered ñora into the pan, with crushed garlic, finely diced onion and some olive oil. Fry gently until the onion seems cooked.
– remove the flavour-slurry(TM) from the pan. If you have a food processor, this would be a good time to engage the blade that shreds stuff really finely.
– slice most of the way through the skin and fat of the duck in a criss-cross pattern, rub it in salt and pepper, and fry it in the leftover flavourings until the fat looks properly cooked, then remove it from the pan

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– dice the pre-fried duck, after trimming any excessively overhanging fat, return it to the pan, and fry it until all the meat is cooked
– start heating the wine/bouillon mix to a boil
– add the rice, and cook it until the grains turn transparent and you can see the kernels
– stir in the puréed tomato, then the flavour-slurry
– mix in two teaspoons of pimenton
– chuck in the diced salami and carrots, and make sure it’s all mixed thoroughly
– add the boiling wine/bouillon mix and start a timer for 17 minutes. This is when the rice starts properly cooking.
– add a large pinch of saffron
– make sure the saffron is evenly mixed through. Once that’s done, stir it no more; now it just needs to steep over the heat.
– unless you have a really wide burner or a heat-spreader, balance the paella over two burners and turn it every minute or so

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– this is a good time to wash all the stuff you used while preparing it. You’re stuck within arm’s reach of the paella anyway; what else are you going to do with the next quarter of an hour?
– when the timer goes off, peel yourself off the ceiling, turn off the burners, soak a tea-towel in hot water, and drape it over the paella. Leave it for a few minutes, to make sure everything’s properly cooked through.

Verdict: success! It was rich and warm, tasting more like a spicy mixture than a collection of individual flavours. It even tasted great cold, the next morning – quite unusual for paella, which normally loses some of its flavour overnight.

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