|John, my cousin Les and his wife Shelagh prepare to try my first effort at paella. I laugh in the face of those who say you should never try new recipes out on guests.|
Shrimps, scallops, mussels and clams were never part of the prairie repertoire, so perhaps it is not surprising that paella always seemed like an exotic dish I was reluctant to tackle. But John's cousin Janice served us a delicious one a while ago, and promised it was very do-able. Her recipe is invitingly titled: "Paella even more Simplified." Not just simplified, but even more simplified -- maybe even a neophyte could handle this.
The recipe, which still has 17 ingredients, is a bit daunting, but Janice has organized it so most of the work can be done in advance, leaving just the final cooking and assembly for right before the meal. For me, the trickiest parts were dealing with the unfamiliar seafood -- the fine line between a cooked scallop and an undercooked one; the degree of pinkness of a cooked shrimp. And fear of mussels -- I got them at a reputable fish store just a few hours earlier, but are they safe?
My guinea pigs for this experiment were my cousin Les and his wife Shelagh, who agreed that since they were family, I would be forgiven any disasters. Fortunately, that wasn't necessary. Janice's clear instructions carried the day, and my paella was a success -- even though I forgot to add in the carefully thawed peas. Now that I know how to cook scallops and mussels, I may just make this very non-prairie dish again one day.
|The 17 ingredients for the paella included chorizo sausage, sliced into one-quarter-inch rounds.|
|Green pepper, onion and garlic -- all chopped in advance in preparation for the final cooking.|
|Mussels, scallops and shrimp. The scallops and shrimp are cooked earlier, then added with the mussels at the end. Not all the mussels opened, but we just avoided them.|
|All assembled for the final cooking: Plum tomatoes; rice; the onion/garlic mixture and sausage.|
|Notice the recipe hanging over the stove.|
|The finished product: the paella, along with a green salad, asparagus and bread.|
|The reward: A beautiful bouquet of lilies from our guests.|