30 September 2011

Chicken Paella for Dorothy ...

This week's Game-Changer is all about teaching the next generation of chefs and hospitality professionals. Dorothy Hamilton has earned her way onto this list by observing the best of vocational education in Europe and bringing the model to the States via her French Culinary Institute, which has morphed to become The International Culinary Institute. What started as a small school for students of French cuisine in Manhattan has become a well-respected school of culinary arts with a west coast branch in San Francisco. To boot, Hamilton has branched out to lend support to an alternative education and rehabilitation program for incarcerated folk and their families. She has also worked  on developing a vocational program designed to train housekeeping professionals with the knowledge and savvy it takes to run an estate from the winecellar up to the housekeeping quarters - kind of like an Upstairs, Downstairs training camp. Yes, of course, I'm simplifying, but you do get the ghist, right?

Her niche has been education - vocational education that implements a strong immersion model - an 'in the trenches' approach that specializes students, giving them skills and knowledge of the food and hospitality industry - laudable work, I  say, in this age where there is such a huge stress on getting into the right college, getting your degree, going for the degree that will get you big bucks ... blah, blah, blah.

So, my quandry has been deciding on what to make as a small tribute to this powerhouse of a woman? Well, I read a Dorothy Hamilton interview in which she stated her love of making chicken paella ... I KNOW! Paella!?! Well, there you go ... a French chef with a love of the cuisine to the south of France! Since I love paella ...

This one's for you, Dorothy! This is my version of Chicken Paella ... enjoy!

chickpeas in lieu of green peas

This paella is so rich and full of flavour. Paella has numerous steps. Ingredients are dealt with in 'isolation', so to speak. Then, when the sofrito base has finally utilized all the built up flavours and caramelized to a deep rich red, the rice is added and cooked a bit, the broth goes in, the other ingredients get arranged atop the cooking rice, and it all comes together. All the previous preparation allows the individual ingredients to keep their texture and allows the flavours to develop without losing the proper bite for all those ingredients.

wish I had a wood fire to cook this, but alas

I made this paella with my son this afternoon. We chatted up his job in a local restaurant, my love of blogging, the family gossip, and general chit chat, as we prepped the vegetables, made a saffron flavoured chicken broth, did a fast sear of the chicken, softened the peppers and Andouille sausage in an olive oil and garlic sauté, cooked and stirred a slow sofrito, added rice and the saffron broth to the sofrito and finally arranged all the other ingredients for a simmer. Then, the finished rice got a fast hot finish that caramelized the base of the dish. It was placed front and center on the table and covered to 'rest' and let the flavours meld and then ... ATTACK!

I gave everyone a serving spoon of their own and put the paella pan (my cazuela, really) right in the middle of the table - big glasses of chilled white wine, a side dish of cool cucumbers in a soft yogurt sauce and dinner was served. 

I was wondering, as I made the dish, what it is about the dish that Dorothy Hamilton loves so much ... the exacting steps that it takes to keep the flavours developing while letting the textures of the individual components remain intact? ... the use of simple ingredients that when combined create a dish of great complexity? ... gee, the taste? Whatever. Paella is a wonderful dish that has so many different incarnations ... this one is all about spicy sausage and rich chicken thigh meat, smoky paprika and garlic, a fully developed sofrito, and tender crisp peppers with smooth chickpeas. Luscious!

Gosh, I wonder what everyone else is making in tribute to Dorothy Hamilton? Head on over to One Perfect Bite for links to all the other folks that  are along on this fun blogging journey! Dorothy Hamilton is Number 17 on the list of 50 ... there's plenty of time for you to join us too!

Wahoo! Next week, we'll be browsing 'Chocolate and Zucchini', Clotilde Dusoulier's blog and reading up on her works! Join us, why don't you?

finished dish with a beautiful soccarat forming at the edges of the pan

Chicken Paella with Peppers and Andouille Sausage

Serves: 4 ... or 2 with leftovers for lunch

4 ½ c. strong chicken broth
1 large pinch saffron threads, lightly toasted and crumbled
Kosher salt and black pepper, generous pinches here and there
4 chicken thighs
3 Andouille sausage links, cut into ¾-inch ‘coins’
¼ c. olive oil
1 sweet red pepper, sliced into length-wise thin strips
1 green pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 medium onion, grated through the large holes of a box grater or processor
1 large tomato, sliced lengthwise and grated through the large holes of the grater – skin discarded
½ tsp. smoked paprika
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ c. cooked chickpeas
1 ½ c. long-grain rice ( I use basmati rice)
1 lemon, cut in wedges

Have all the ingredients prepped and ready to work with before starting the dish …

Making the Dish:

1. Toast the saffron threads in a dry pan over medium heat, watching carefully that they don’t burn.

2. Crumble them into simmering chicken broth. Set the broth aside off the heat until ready to cook the rice.

3. Heat a large paella pan or a large cazuela with the olive oil and two smashed garlic cloves until the oil shimmers. Salt and pepper the thighs. Place them in the hot oil and leave them to sear on each side until golden and beginning to crisp.

4. Remove them to a platter, but leave the garlic in the pan. Lower the heat a bit and add the Andouille sausage coins, peppers and two more smashed cloves of garlic, tossing until the peppers brighten in color and shimmer and the ‘coins’ begin to brown.

5. Mound the peppers and sausage over the chicken on the platter, removing them with a slotted spoon and keeping as much of the oil and juices in the pan as possible.

6. Add the grated onion, grated tomato, smoked paprika and two more smashed cloves of garlic and lower the heat, stirring this mixture often to make a deep red, caramelized ‘sofrito’ that will flavour the paella rice – cook slowly for maybe 15 minutes. The sofito must be thick – almost like a jam or compote.

7. Add the rice to the sofrito and toss it to coat all the rice kernels. Increase the heat a bit and cook the rice for a minute or two.

8. Add the chicken broth/saffron, shake the pan to level the rice over the bottom of the pan.

9. Arrange the chicken, peppers and sausage over the top of the rice, without disturbing the rice layer, sprinkle the chickpeas over and around the peppers, sausage and chicken, and let the mixture bubble over medium-high heat until the broth is absorbed – about ten to fifteen minutes.

10. When the broth is no longer visible, taste test the rice ( take just a bit from down below the top layer - it should be al dente). If the rice is still too hard, add a bit more water and let it come to the perfect al dente state. Then, increase the heat to high and toast the bottom layer of rice until it begins to caramelize a bit. Watch the pan at this point. Gently test the rice to see that it is al dente and watch the outer rim of the pan. Gently pry a bit of the rice away to test for the caramelizing. When there is a smooth brown sheen and the rice is beginning to 'crisp', remove the pan from the heat and cover loosely with foil or a large cookie sheet.

11. Let the paella rest for about 5 minutes to let the flavours meld and the mass to ‘set up’.

12. Serve the paella straight from the pan and have plenty of lemon wedges for squeezing over the mound of goodness. Some people like to eat the paella communally from the pan using large spoons and small side plates for the chicken pieces (the bones, really).

13. This dish calls for big glasses of cold wine or beer and a cool salad of some sort off to the side.

A word about the dish : I'm betting that this Paella comes from the northern reaches of Catalonia right along the border and over into the southern region of France. I'm also betting that this dish might very well be made with rabbit and certainly the local Catalonian sausages ... maybe one day I'll get back to Spain to taste a more authentic version. Until then, this will do! I'm hoping that Dorothy Hamilton would approve .. if not, c'est la vie!

assembled paella ... rice cooking


  1. I'm seriously impressed, Susan. You even have the pan! Sounds like a wonderful afternoon with your son and an amazing dinner. I will use your post as my guide when I finally decide to tackle this.

  2. Oh, I love your choice...it looks so rich and comforting. Just lovely. And I know...how awesome would it be to cook that over a wood fire!? ;)

  3. Wood fire or no, this turned out beautifully, Susan. Dorothy was a difficult Game Changer recipe-wise, but you chose a great dish to represent her!

  4. That paella looks delicious. I can almost smell it! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Now this I can do, seafood Paella I cannot-no fresh fish-glad you posted this. That dish on the stove is so inviting-I will need to make this on a cool winters night. Well done and have a great weekend.

  6. I love paella - and I think Dorothy Hamilton would really enjoy yours.

  7. Looks beautiful! I've never seen one with chicken.

  8. chicken thighs you say? i'm on my way... Stunning as ever!

  9. What a fantastic post; we love paella and have been wanting to make it for years and I am printing this. I just bought some saffon and pou make it sound and look very do able. Merci.

  10. I have yet to find the courage to tackle Paella. I'm sure Dorothy would be impressed with this dish!


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