Saturday, March 14, 2009

Feast for a Knucklehead: The Simplest Paella, Seared Baby Bok Choy with Bacon Vinaigrette, and Roasted Asparagus

Sunday was the one week anniversary of my least favorite brother Jonathan's 26th birthday. In honor of this occasion, I told him I'd make him and his friends whatever he wanted (so long as it was in How To Cook Everything, of course). So that's how we ended up with Paella, a deceptively easy dish that takes much less time than everyone thinks. Since it was a special occasion, I replaced half the shrimp with squid and added some chorizo to the recipe for good measure. Check it out:

Basically, it works like this: saute some onions in olive oil, add chorizo if you're using it, and then add the rice (preferably paella rice, though I used arborio at Bittman's suggestion and it worked) and cook it for a minute until it looks "shiny." At this point you add the stock that's been heating up with saffron in it (if you're me, you add the saffron with the rice instead of letting it heat with the broth, resulting in a still very tasty but less orange dish), stir in the shrimp and squid, and throw it in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes.

It actually took more like 30 minutes, but my oven is trife). When the rice is cooked through and the top is getting a nice brown layer, you're good. This was completely delicious and the chorizo was predictably a great call.

For veggies, we had two dishes. Roasted Asparagus is something I've made 100 times before, and it turns out is also in HTCE. I burnt them a little. They were still good, in fact I think they were better than usual. That's one veggie that does real well under high heat. I think next time I may even try the broiler (the recipe was for Grilled, Broiled, or Roasted Asparagus so there's a lot of room for interpretation as long as the heat is high).

But that was overshadowed, I'm afraid. It's not that it wasn't good (which it was) and it's not that I forgot the lemon wedges Bittman recommends (which I did). It's just that the other vegetable dish last night had bacon in it. So you see, it wasn't really fair. Seared Baby Bok Choy with Bacon Vinaigrette is simpy unfuckwithable, and not just because of the bacon. You boil and shock baby bok choy, cut it in half, and then cook it cut side down, so it gets just a bit charred.

It's a really interesting flavor, one I didn't think would work at all, but oh how it did. The bacon vinaigrette is just, you cook some chopped up bacon (about 6 oz, I used less) deglaze with some sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, and then whisk in some olive oil. Pour that on top of the baby bok choy and you have a serious side dish. For those of you who don't like to cook with bacon, there's an alternate recipe with a chili vinaigrette that also looks killer.

I served it all with a salad, not from the book. Our guests were Sean, Eva, and Mike, who it should be noted really loves a good, creamy rice and a cool, icy glass of red wine. I expect all of your comments below. Diana, you need to try harder. Happy Birthday big guy.

Oh! And for dessert I broiled some nectarines. The were so SO good. They didn't even need the ice cream, though it certainly didn't hurt.

One thing that's so great about roasting or grilling fruit is that it doesn't even have to be that great quality fruit. The nectarines were hard as rocks going in, but in the broiler they became these super sweet, sorta tart warm soft charred flavor bombs. I think it was Sean who said it was like pie, without the pie. Awesome.

(just kidding Diana, I owe you one, hope you're feeling better)


  1. Ben- I have to say I don't really approve of cooking paella in the oven...I don't know if Bittman's recipe works like this, but typically, Paella is cooked on the stovetop simmered slowly to develop the starch in the short grain rice, to get that creaminess. I can't imagine you get that in the oven, but I trust that you made something delicious regardless.

  2. not only does this look delicious, but "unfuckwithable" is my new favorite word.