Seafood Paella

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Paella is a wholesome and soulful meal that is meant for sharing. It transforms relatively humble ingredients into a deliciously complex and pleasing dining experience. While I love traditional Valencia-style seafood paella and never hesitate to order it at Spanish tapas restaurants, I find myself hard-pressed for time trying to juggle work, fitness, chores, taking care of Benji (my senior dog), spending quality time with my loved ones, meal prepping, and finding calm and tranquility in my day. Wow, it feels so much more overwhelming now that I’ve listed my responsibilities so exhaustively. And I’m sure the average person is struggling with similar challenges of having too much to do in the day and simply not having enough time and energy. This is why I am a fan of simple and hands-off cooking techniques. You remember the “set it and forget it” slogan from Ronco’s Showtime rotisserie machine? Maybe I just dated myself…Anyhow, I often use non-fussy cooking methods that will provide quick returns or at least require less of my attention and time. This is why I am a huge fan of the slow cooker and one-pot meals. Searing and boiling food, and then allowing it cook itself with minimal monitoring? Sign me up! So, I made a variation of seafood paella that veers away from tradition. I cover my rice with a lid to allow it to steam rather than babysitting it for an hour, carefully ladling broth in and massaging the rice. As much as I would love to do that, I am just pressed for time. I guess this recipe is more of an “arroz con mariscos” because other Latin-American countries also use the lidded pot for its steaming properties rather than the traditional paella cooking method

I made this for my family during one of our weekly Wednesday night dinner’s at my dad’s house. My sister has been having a stressful time in school, and I wanted to show my support in one of the best ways I know how: by nourishing her body and soul. I was really shocked when my father actually made positive comments about my dish. He comes from a culinary background as a dim sum chef, and he also has this strange idea in his head that Chinese and Vietnamese foods are the only ones worth eating. Yes, I realize that his is a very narrow-minded approach to food than most, and I most heartily disagree, but that’s my father for you.  I have learned to accept it, as you must do with most circumstances in life that are out of your hands. I have also learned to accept that he will likely never approve of anything that I make or think that it is tasty. It will never be authentically Chinese enough or Vietnamese enough. Which was why I was really shocked at his words “Wow, it looks good!” when I placed the finished paella on the dinner table. So there is your food miracle for the day. =P I hope that this dish brings some positive moments with you and your loved ones as it did with mine.

Cooking Tips

When in doubt, always have your fire lower rather than higher when you are cooking any potted rice dish with the lid closed. It is better to have to cook your dish longer than to have burnt rice. No one likes that. I prefer to cook my paella on medium low heat.

When cooking rice, I prefer to put less water than to put too much water because I hate mushy rice. Then, I will slowly add more liquid toward the end of cooking if the rice does not become soft to the desired texture of chewiness. Usually when cooking white rice, the ratio of liquid to rice should be 1:1.

Recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Serves 6-8 people
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 heads shallots, minced
pinch of salt
½ lb chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch chunks
½ sweet onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
½ Kielbasa or any spicy cooked sausage
3 cups Arborio rice, washed and drained
½ cup dry white wine
1 can crushed tomatoes
½ quart of chicken broth
1 tbsp seasoned salt, or to taste (Trader Joe’s seasoned salt or Goya seasoning)
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp saffron
½ lb large shrimp, deveined and peeled
½ lb calamari, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
lemon wedges for squeezing
Heat a large and deep skillet/pan on high heat. Add in oil, and fry garlic and shallots for 2-3 minutes, or until soft. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the frying pan. Allow to brown.

Remove chicken from the pan. Add in more olive oil and stir fry onion and bell pepper on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes.

Add chicken back into the pan, along with Kielbasa, and stir fry together with vegetables on high heat for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with seasoned salt. Add rice to the pan to stir fry together with meat and vegetables.

Add in wine, crushed tomatoes, and chicken broth. Season to taste with seasoning salt, paprika, and saffron. Mix rice thoroughly with liquids and then turn heat on medium low.

Allow rice to simmer on medium low heat for 20-30 minutes, depending on your stove and how often you peak at the rice. When most of the liquid has evaporated, check rice for doneness. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add chicken broth or water as needed.

When your rice is just “al dente” mix calamari into the paella and place shrimp on top of paella and place the lid back on. Allow to steam and finish cooking until rice reaches desired level of doneness and most liquid has evaporated (~5 minutes).

Remove from heat, and serve with lots of green onion and lemon wedges on top.

Enjoy with your loved ones!

 

Truffle Pan Seared Steak

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Another truffle recipe from the same truffle that I was gifted months ago. Truffle is a special ingredient in that it does not require any fancy preparation or cooking. With its deep earthy umami flavor, it simply needs shaving/grating, and then gets incorporated into a dish that does not mask its flavor. In my experience, black truffle pairs very well with beef, potatoes, and creamy pasta dishes. It’s also great with a simple bread and butter combo.

The key to this truffle steak recipe is a quality piece of meat. Although it is an admirable feat to transform humble ingredients into a mouthwatering dish, some dishes necessitate high quality ingredients. I oftentimes buy my steak from Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, or Sprouts because they tend to have higher quality meats that are within my price range. I prefer New York Strip or top sirloin because of their high flavor profile and affordability. I avoid rib eye for health reasons because of its high fat content and higher price tag, but that would be an excellent cut for this dish as well. My favorite accompaniments to a well-seared piece of steak? Homemade creamed spinach, creamed corn, and some buttery fluffy mashed potatoes. Those recipes will likely follow in future posts.

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Cooking and eating bring so much joy and comfort to me. Although I try to avoid extreme emotional eating on most days, some days you just need a full steak dinner to reward yourself for a hard day’s work. I like to make special dinners for my fiancé and me on Fridays, because it marks the end of our workweek. Sharing a special dinner just helps to jumpstart the beginning of a relaxing and fun weekend. Without further ado, I hope you make good use of this truffle steak recipe to celebrate a romantic evening at home with your significant other.

 

img_1855img_1873Cooking notes/tips:

Invest in a cast iron skillet or heavy skillet for optimal searing of steaks and meats. You won’t be sorry!

I almost always sear my steaks/pork chops/chicken breasts, and then finish cooking in the oven.

Always. I mean, always allow your steak to rest 7-10 minutes before serving. This will allow its juices to redistribute prior to cutting, preventing a dry steak.

Recipe
Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 tsp truffle salt
pepper, to taste
2 tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary
6 top sirloin steaks

Directions 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pat steaks dry and season generously with truffle salt, pepper, and any additional salt to taste.

Heat cast iron skillet on high heat. Place a pat of butter and 2 cloves of garlic into the pan. Continue moving garlic around, allowing it to flavor the butter. Then add sprig of rosemary into melted butter and allow this to flavor the butter.

Sear steak in 2-3 batches. Place steaks onto pan and allow to sear for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown.

Continuously turn sprig of rosemary and garlic cloves to prevent burning. Remove garlic cloves from pan once they are golden brown

Flip steaks and allow the other side to sear 3-5 minutes.

Place garlic cloves and steaks in the oven and allow to roast for 10-20 minutes at 350 degrees, depending on thickness and desired level of doneness. For medium steak, roast for 10-15 minutes.

When steak is at desired level of doneness, take out of oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Slice steak and shave fresh black truffle on the top. Serve immediately with roasted garlic cloves.