Milk Street From Spain with Love (Ep 403)
Weeknight Paella (Chicken and Bean Paella)
Start to finish: 1½ hours | Servings: 4
Outside of Spain, paella is considered a luxurious dish, loaded with seafood, scented with pricy saffron and served as an event in and of itself. Its beginnings, however, are more humble. The one-pan dish was prepared by Valencian farm workers as a midday meal. This type of paella, called paella Valenciana, still is made today. For our version—adapted for a nonstick 12-inch skillet with a lid—we opted for chicken thighs, canned white beans, fresh green beans and grape or cherry tomatoes; saffron is a nice addition, but entirely optional. Using the right rice is key to getting the proper subtly creamy but not overly starchy consistency. Look for Bomba rice, sometimes labeled simply as “Valencian rice.” Calasparra rice from Murcia, Spain, is another good option. If neither is available, substitute an equal amount of Arborio rice, but before cooking, rinse it well and drain, and also reduce the amount of broth to 2½ cups. To be efficient, during the 30 minutes that the chicken marinates, prepare the remaining ingredients.
Don't forget to stir in the rice after sprinkling it into the pan. Distributing the grains in an even layer and making sure they're submerged ensures even cooking. But after that, resist the urge to stir. Undisturbed cooking allows the paella to form a nicely browned bottom crust called socarrat. Finally, don't cover the pan as the paella cooks or the rice will wind up soggy and overdone.
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces and patted dry
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 15½-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup dry sherry
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth 4 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
- 1 cup Valencian rice (see note)
- 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Lemon wedges, to serve
In a medium bowl, combine the sweet paprika, ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until barely smoking. Add the chicken in an even layer and cook without stirring until well-browned, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the pieces and cook until the second sides are well- browned, another 1 to 2 minutes. Using the tongs, return the chicken to the bowl, leaving the fat in the pan.
To the same skillet over medium, add the beans and cook, stirring, until the beans are fragrant and coated with oil, about 30 seconds. Transfer to the bowl with the chicken.
Set the skillet over medium-high, then stir in the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are browned, the liquid they released has evaporated and the mixture begins to sizzle, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the mixture is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the remaining 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, then cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sherry and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture begins to sizzle, 2 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the broth, bay, rosemary and saffron (if using), then bring to a boil over medium-high. Stir in the green beans and the cannellini bean-chicken mixture along with any accumulated juices. Sprinkle the rice into the skillet, then stir to combine and evenly distribute the grains, pressing down to ensure they are fully submerged. Return to a boil, then reduce to medium and cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid is absorbed and craters appear in the rice, 16 to 18 minutes. Increase to medium-high and continue to cook, without stirring but rotating the pan every 10 seconds or so, until you hear sizzling and smell a toasty aroma, 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat. Drape a clean kitchen towel across the top, then cover with a lid and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to scoop the paella onto individual plates, scraping along the pan to loosen the bottom crust (socarrat). Serve with lemon wedges.
Seared Pork Tenderloin with Smoked Paprika and Oregano
Start to finish: 35 minutes | Servings: 4
In the Extremadura region of Spain that is home to pimentón de la Vera, or Spanish smoked paprika, we were taught that exposure to high heat blunts the spice’s unique earthiness, smokiness and fruitiness. This recipe illustrates how to best preserve pimentón’s unique flavors when searing is involved: the paprika is mixed with olive oil and then brushed onto butterflied and pounded pork tenderloin only after the meat has been browned in a hot skillet. Spanish smoked paprika is available in different degrees of spiciness. For this dish, if you have the choice, opt for sweet (dulce) or bittersweet (agridulce).
Don’t use a heavy hand when pounding the pork, which can result in tears and uneven thickness. And when pounding, work from the center of the piece outward to the edges.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (see note)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon white sugar
- Two 1¼-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of silver skin Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
INSTRUCTIONS In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, smoked paprika, dried oregano and sugar; set aside. Halve each tenderloin crosswise, then halve each piece lengthwise, stopping about ¼ inch short of cutting all the way through; open the meat like a book. Using a meat pounder or mallet, pound the pork to an even ¼-inch thickness, then season each piece all over with ½ teaspoon salt.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the grapeseed oil until shimmering. Place 2 pieces of pork in the pan and cook undisturbed until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the second sides are browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Lightly brush some paprika oil onto each piece, then flip the pork and brush the second sides. Transfer to a platter.
Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil and pork. Brush the remaining paprika oil onto the pork, then let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the fresh oregano.
Andalusian Tomato and Bread Soup (Salmorejo)
Start to finish: 15 minutes, plus chilling | Servings: 4
If peak-season, perfectly ripe tomatoes are available, use them in this simple but richly flavored, no-cook chilled soup. Otherwise, Campari or cocktail tomatoes are a good choice, as they are dependably sweet year- round. Excellent results also require high- quality extra-virgin olive oil, so make sure the oil you use does not have bitter or harsh notes. Bread helps thicken the soup and gives it its creamy consistency; choose a crusty, country-style loaf with a relatively soft interior so the bread blends easily into the soup, but remember to remove the crust. To keep the soup chilled for as long as possible at the table, we like to refrigerate the serving bowls.
Don't forget to taste the soup for seasoning after chilling, just before serving. Chilling blunts flavor, so though the soup may have initially tasted fine, after chilling it likely will need additional salt and pepper.
- 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (see note), cored
- 2½ ounces country-style white bread (see note), crust removed, torn into small pieces (about 1½ cups)
- ½ medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
- 1 medium garlic clove, smashed and peeled
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus more to serve
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
- 4 thin slices prosciutto (2 ounces), torn into pieces
- 4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered (optional)
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
INSTRUCTIONS In a blender, combine the tomatoes, bread, bell pepper, garlic, sugar, vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Blend on high until completely smooth and no bits of tomato skins remain, about 1 minute. With the blender running, gradually add ¾ cup oil. Transfer to a large bowl, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, 2 to 4 hours.
While the soup chills, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the prosciutto to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool completely, then roughly chop; set aside.
Taste the soup and season again with salt and pepper. Ladle it into chilled bowls. Top with the prosciutto, hard-cooked egg (if using) and parsley. Drizzle with additional oil and vinegar as desired.
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