Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When Life Gives You Saffron Make Paella

I have a very clear memory of watching the Avengers on a little black-and-white TV and eating paella. It was chock full of chicken, sausage and shrimp. It was my introduction to saffron and it was love at first bite.

For my Ostra bag this year I decided to use saffron. Usually I frown on using saffron because of the cost. But this year I reasoned that this is one of my most important rituals that I do that sets the tone for the entire year…and if that isn’t worth some quality herbs then I don’t know what is.

I also decided if I was going to buy saffron it wouldn’t be from the grocery store. Something you might not know about me is I love working with herbs. I love how they awaken a sense that we don’t really use every day. The sense of smell is actually one of the most potent of memory triggers. When I smell an herb it reaches down into a part of me and tugs on the tendrils of my past joys and sorrows like nothing else can.

Herbalism was my focus when I got my N.D. I am also certified by the American Botanical Society. I used to have over 200 herbs that I used for everything from teas and tinctures to mojo bags. But since becoming a mother I found it hard to keep up with every one of my passions. And unfortunately where I live we have drought conditions making it hard to grow anything…although my sage still lives through drought and ice.

I’ve missed making teas and more then once I’ve found myself reaching for a bottle that is long gone and it hurts a bit. You don’t realize what is really important until it is gone. So this year I opted to buy fresh beautiful herbs from all over the world:
Pink rose petals from Chile
Cinnamon from Indonesia
Vanilla beans for Madagascar
Blessed thistle from Hungary
Saffron from Spain

I have to say I was very impressed with HERBALCOM. The herbs are fresh and full of aroma. Which brings me back to saffron. Even now I can smell it on my fingers…mmmm. I know there is paella in my future.

Paella is named for the pan, a paellera, that the Spanish cook in. It is a flat pan with two handles. Everyone has their own version of what to put in the paella. Two years ago I made one with muscles, crab, clam, white fish, scallops, shrimp and lobster and it was *sound of lips smacking* divine.

But DH is allergic to seafood so I will make it with chicken and sausage. My son is excited to try saffron and has also approved the chicken sausage combo. So here is my recipe. But the thing about paella is that you should make it as your mood dictates. I also like a bit of spice in mine so you can change that too. As long as you have some rice, saffron, and olive oil it should be okay. If you want to make it vegetarian just substitute the meat for veggies. Also follow the instructions on your rice for the liquid amount. All rice is different.

Note: If you have saffron threads they need to “bloom” or soak in some liquid in order to let their beautiful flavors develop.

Ruinwen’s Paella

¾ cup of olive oil
1 med onion, chopped
One clove of garlic per person, minced
One piece of chorizo sausage per person
One piece of chicken per person
½ cup of rice per person
3 cups of broth chicken or vegetable broth for every cup of rice (check package)
¼ tsp of saffron
½ tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup red, orange, or yellow pepper
½ tsp of cayenne if you want more spice

Brown sausage and set it aside. Drain sausage grease to ½ tsp and sear chicken.

Heat the olive oil in a separate pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and red pepper to the oil and cook until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant or about 5 minutes.

Pour in the rice and let it absorb the oil and become translucent, which is about another 5 minutes. Add sausage and chicken, broth, paprika, saffron and cayenne. Cover and cook per rice’s instructions. In this case it is 25 minutes.

Remove from heat. Taste. Adjust salt and pepper if needed. Stir. Cover again and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Enjoy.

:)

I don’t mean to limit the use of saffron to paella. Countries all over the world enjoy its unique flavor. Here are but a few dishes from over the globe:
Bouillabaisse from France
Risotto from Milan
Some tajine recipes from Morocco employ saffron
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