Christmas Eve Paella (Also: New Year's Eve Paella)


Paella is one of our family's favorite dishes, and even though I've heard it's "easy," there are many ingredients and the assembly is tricky. Ron's dad had a great recipe that goes back three decades (which uses the oven), and I found a fantastic version by Janet Mandel, a Spanish cooking authority (which uses the stove top).  I put the two of them together, and also added my own touches.  I decided to use a large earthenware casserole dish and the oven method.  (Note: Assembly time: about an hour; cooking time, approximately another hour. Give yourself ample time, don't rush and enjoy the experience!)

Ingredients:
4 small chicken thighs, bone-in
4 small chicken breasts (or two breasts cut in half), bone-in
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
10 strands of saffron, steeped in boiling water
2 cups long grain white rice
8 cups chicken broth
1 green pepper, cut in 1/2" x 1/4" strips
1 ripe plum tomato, chopped
1 lb. Spanish chorizo (sausage)
18 raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
18 mussels
18 littleneck clams
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large Spanish onion, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1/2 box frozen peas
4 oz. roasted red peppers

Note: Prepare your mis en table in advance; chop all tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic, clean all seafood, etc. so the cooking and assembly process goes smoothly.

Preparation
Cook the chicken: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Salt and pepper both sides of all pieces of chicken in oven-proof frying pan. Sauté in olive oil on both sides until deep golden brown.  Pop into oven for 20 minutes.

Cook the chorizo: Fry chorizo in non-stick pan. When cooked through, cut into small pieces. Drain pan of excess fat. Return chorizo to pan. Add onion, garlic, chopped tomato and green pepper, adding olive oil if necessary. When onion and garlic are translucent, remove from heat and set aside.

Steep the saffron: Bring one cup water to a boil. Remove from heat, add saffron. Set aside.

Assembly
When chicken is cooked, arrange around edges of large open casserole or paella pan.  Sprinkle with rice and add chicken stock, chopped tomato, chorizo/onion/pepper mixture, saffron with water, stir and cover tightly. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring half way through.

Remove from oven, uncover, stir. Add peas, roasted red peppers and shrimp. Cover, put back in oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add mussels and clams. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, or until clams, shrimp and mussels are cooked. Shrimp should be firm and pink. Discard any mussels or clams that are not open.

Serve with salad and crisp white wine, such as Pinot Grigio (or Sangria, for you purists).

Paella also makes a fantastic party dish, as perfect for a crowd on New Year's Eve as on Christmas Eve.

Coquilles St. Jacques (Scallops in Cream Sauce)


Elegantly Simple ... And Simply Elegant.

If you are musing over what to serve on Christmas Eve and/or New Year's Eve, here's a surprisingly easy yet exquisite dish that works for two, four or six. Served over ris au four (baked rice) and accompanied by a chilled white wine or Prosecco, and garlic-sautéed haricots vert, it is a memorable meal for a special night. With abundant thanks my muse, master chef Pierre Franey, for his inspiration.

Ingredients

Coquilles (Scallops in Cream Sauce)
1-1/2 lbs. fresh bay scallops, well rinsed and patted dry
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sautéed in 2 tbsp. butter (can be done ahead)
1 shallot, minced
6 tbsp. butter
3 leeks, washed well, and chopped finely
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 c. dry white wine, such as a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay
1 small shallot, chopped finely
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 tbsp. Sambuca (or Pernod)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Baked Rice


1-1/2 c. white rice
2-1/4 c. water or low-sodium chicken broth
1 small sweet onion, chopped finely
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme and 2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 small bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Process

Prepare the rice first:
Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

1. In a small Le Creuset or similar casserole that can go from the range top to the oven, sauté the onion and garlic in butter until translucent. Stir in the rice and coat well.


2. Add water or broth, and all ingredients.
3. Cover with a lid and bake at 400F for 15 minutes.

While the rice is baking:
1. Sauté the leeks in butter until wilted. Add wine, and cook for a few minutes until it has given up its alcohol. Stir in cream, flour, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat to reduce and thicken, stirring frequently.


2. As cream mixture simmers, sauté shallots, salt and pepper in a large separate non-stick sauté pan. Add the scallops when shallots are translucent and sauté to a golden hue.

3. Add Sambuca and heat until it has given up its alcohol.
4. Combine scallop mixture with cream sauce, bring to a boil, and add remaining butter. Serve with baked rice.