Wednesday, July 9, 2014





It never hurts to have a plan for a single pan


August 24. 2013 11:58AM
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I’ll cook, you clean. That’s something single folks don’t get to say unless they’re hanging out with friends. When the sole beneficiary of your kitchen time is looking back at you in the mirror, you become cook and dishwasher in one.


This double duty can affect your appetite. Not your appetite for good food, but your appetite for recipes that require you to use this pan and that pot and that dish, recipes that make you think too much about the cleanup part and not enough about the cooking — and eating — part. And that’s before you’ve even so much as reached for a cutting board.


I’m guilty of writing those recipes from time to time. I get excited about a technique or a combination, and one pan leads to another. Even the simplest of dishes, such as pasta with a quick pan sauce, can violate the one-pot rule. At least the stockpot I boiled the pasta in usually needs little more than a good rinsing afterward.


Some of my favorite dishes, though, are far more streamlined. Stir-fries, soups, sandwiches, salads and pizza typically use just one cooking implement — if that. And then there are the single-pan dishes that seem much more complex than they really are.


Which brings me to paella. I can hear the cries already: Paella for one? Blasphemy! “Paella is a sociable dish,” writes Alberto Herraiz in a cookbook called, simply, “Paella” (Phaidon, 2011). And indeed, exhibition-size paellas abound; Jose Andres and his Jaleo team make an annual appearance at a D.C. market, among other places, to make paella for, oh, 300 or so of their closest friends. It involves tubs of chicken, bushels of vegetables, gallons of stock, bag upon bag of short-grain rice and an oar-size stirrer.


When my sister and I traveled to Spain almost a decade ago, we made a pilgrimage to the birthplace of paella. There, we tasted an iconic iteration of it in a seaside restaurant outside the city. The standard offering served two. Just two. As Spanish cooking authority Penelope Casas writes in “Paella!” (Holt, 1999), “Although it makes a splendid party dish (for which most of the preparation can be done in advance), it is just as appropriate for quiet nights at home.”


Hear, hear. The day after we tasted that revelatory paella in Valencia — the pan was bigger around than I had expected, the rice shallower (and crispy on the bottom), the other ingredients sparser — we bought carbon-steel paella pans outside the city’s fabulous Mercado Central.


Since then, I’ve made paella for dinner parties at least a few times a year for six or eight guests, not 300. But I also like to go to the other extreme. Paella may be sociable, but sometimes I’m not, so I make paella for one. It’s satisfaction, not precision, I’m after. Paella delivers, especially for a rice fiend like myself.


Once I figured out the right amounts, everything else fell into place: one-third cup of Bomba, Calasparra or Arborio rice; a cup of seafood or vegetable broth, usually of my own making. The technique is the same as for the larger paellas: Without the benefit of an outdoor grill, I followed the procedure I learned from Casas’ book, amended here and there by my Catalan friend Pep.


In some ways, paella has more in common with risotto than with most baked rice dishes, such as pilafs. You build flavor by sauteing garlic, onion (or, in single-serving style, shallots) and a spice such as Spanish smoked paprika in olive oil, then you coat the rice in this mixture, helping seal it so it doesn’t leak starch and get mushy. The short-grain rice slowly swells as it absorbs the broth on the stove top, never covered, but rather than constantly stirring and gradually adding broth, you pour in all the hot liquid at once and occasionally swirl the pan as the paella gently bubbles. You finish it in the oven, still uncovered, then cover with foil only once it’s out, letting the rice finish cooking as the paella rests and cools. To get that crispy layer on the bottom, you put it back on the stove top for a final couple of minutes.


My favorite personal paella for a while used squid, scallions and cherry tomatoes. Now that I’m eating a mostly vegetarian diet, it has been helpful to remember that in Spain, paella includes all manner of ingredients. What unites them is the rice and the pan.


I flipped through “Paella!” and “Paella” and found ideas in both. Herraiz’s book, which has a nifty cover made to look and feel like the cloth bag that traditional Bomba rice is sold in, has very few vegetarian recipes. But I did see a mullet and roast pumpkin paella that inspired me to use small cubes of butternut squash, cooking them in the rice instead of roasting them separately. Casas’ book has a take on a simple vegetarian paella that features spinach, chickpeas and pine nuts; I simplified it even further and used the very non-Spanish flavor of Madras curry instead of my beloved smoked paprika. Traditionalists would be horrified, but Herraiz is not one of them; his book, in fact, includes a recipe for a “Return to India” paella that uses not just curry powder, but tamarind paste and coconut milk. Perhaps I could be forgiven.


One thing most Spaniards would probably not forgive is my choice to make my personal paellas in a small steel pan I bought in Paris. It’s not considered technically correct to refer to any dish as paella, in fact, if it’s made in anything but that traditional, shallow pan. The word, like a Moroccan tagine, refers to both the pan and the dish. But my paella pan is too big for a single-serving approach, so I and the Spaniards are just going to have to agree to disagree.


Or so I thought. My paella pan is 13 inches in diameter, making it appropriate for four or six. The paella for two we ate in Valencia came in a 10-inch pan. I’ve always assumed that was the smallest size available. But recently I logged on to LaTienda.com, a favorite source of all things Spanish, and noticed that I was wrong. There, for just under $13, was a carbon-steel paella pan measuring just under eight inches, designed to serve one. I clicked, I bought and I felt blasphemous no longer.


Yonan is author of the upcoming “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook” (Ten Speed Press, August 2013). He can be reached through his Web site, www.joeyonan.com.


Spinach and Chickpea Paella


1 or 2 servings


Adding curry powder instead of smoked paprika violates Spanish tradition, but the Indian spice blend tastes great with spinach and chickpeas. This is a hearty portion, so it can serve two with the addition of a salad. From Joe Yonan, author of “Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One” (Ten Speed Press, 2011), loosely based on a recipe by Penelope Casas in “Paella” (Holt, 1999).


1 cup homemade or no-salt-added vegetable broth


Kosher or sea salt


1 tablespoon pine nuts


2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil


1/2 teaspoon Madras curry powder


1 large or 2 small shallot lobes, thinly sliced


2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced


1/3 cup uncooked arborio, bomba or other short-grain rice


1 cup (about 2 ounces) packed baby spinach leaves, chopped


1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, drained (or if canned, use no-salt-added, drained and rinsed)


2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, cut into strips


Steps


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.


Combine the broth and salt to taste in a small saucepan over medium heat until barely bubbling at the edges; reduce the heat to very low and cover. (Or mix the broth and salt in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup, microwave on HIGH until boiling, about 1 minute, and cover to keep hot.)


Sprinkle the pine nuts into a small (8-inch) cast-iron or other heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan frequently to toss the pine nuts, until they are brown and fragrant, a few minutes. Immediately transfer them to a small plate so they don’t continue cooking and burn.


Return the skillet to medium heat and pour in the oil. Once the oil is hot enough to shimmer, sprinkle in the curry powder and let it sizzle and bloom for a few seconds, then add the shallot and garlic and saute until tender, a few minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for another minute or two, until the rice grains are well coated. Add the spinach and chickpeas and cook, stirring, until the spinach wilts, a minute or two.


Pour in the hot broth and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the liquid is gently bubbling. Taste the liquid and add salt as needed, then cook, swirling the pan occasionally to keep the rice hydrated, until the rice has swelled and absorbed much but not all of the liquid (it should be slightly soupy), 8 to 10 minutes.


Scatter the red pepper strips on top of the paella. Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the rice is al dente, or mostly tender but with a little resistance at the center of the grain, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Uncover and return it to the stovetop over medium-high heat and cook for 2 minutes, to brown and crisp the bottom. Scatter the toasted pine nuts on top.


Spoon the paella out onto a plate, or eat it from the pan.


NUTRITION Per serving (based on 2): 290 calories, 8 g protein, 44 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar


Squash and Artichoke Paella


1 or 2 servings


Take advantage of small squashes and pumpkins by making an individual paella. If you want to use only one pot, use a glass measuring cup and the microwave to heat the stock.


This is a hearty portion, so it can serve two with the addition of a salad. From Joe Yonan, author of “Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One” (Ten Speed Press, 2011).


1 small (12 to 16 ounces) butternut or acorn squash or sugar pumpkin


1 cup homemade or no-salt-added vegetable broth


Kosher or sea salt


2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil


1/2 teaspoon pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)


1 large or 2 small shallot lobes, thinly sliced


2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced


1/3 cup uncooked Arborio, Bomba or other short-grain rice


1/4 cup whole, no-salt-added canned tomatoes, drained and chopped (may substitute 1 to 2 plum tomatoes, chopped)


4 canned or frozen/defrosted artichoke hearts, drained and cut into quarters


1/4 cup walnut halves, chopped (optional)


Chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)


Steps


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.


Peel the squash, cut it in half (lengthwise if it is a butternut), and scoop out and remove the seeds; discard them or reserve for another use. Cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Measure out 3/4 cup of squash for this recipe, and reserve the rest for another use. (Or roast it while the oven is hot, and use it for another meal.)


Combine the broth and salt to taste in a small saucepan over medium heat until barely bubbling at the edges; reduce the heat to very low and cover. (Or mix the broth and salt in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup, microwave on HIGH until boiling, about 1 minute, and cover to keep hot.)


Heat the oil in a small (8-inch) cast-iron or other heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, sprinkle in the pimenton and let it sizzle and bloom for a few seconds, then add the shallot and garlic and saute until tender, a few minutes. Add the squash cubes and rice and cook, stirring, for another minute or two so the rice grains are well coated with the pan mixture.


Pour in the hot broth, stir in the tomatoes and artichoke hearts, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the liquid is barely bubbling. Taste the liquid and add salt as needed, then cook, swirling the pan occasionally to keep the rice hydrated, until the rice has swelled and absorbed much but not all of the liquid (it should be slightly soupy), 8 to 10 minutes.


Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the squash is fork-tender and the rice is al dente, or mostly tender but with a little resistance at the center of the grain, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Uncover and return it to the stovetop over medium-high heat and cook for 2 minutes, to brown and crisp the bottom. If desired, scatter the walnuts and parsley on top.


Spoon the paella out onto a plate, or eat it from the pan.


NUTRITION Per serving (based on 2): 270 calories, 5 g protein, 52 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar






Paella


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