Every so often, you need to get fancy. As in: fancy = your highest heels + your reddest lipstick + the expensive bottle of wine you’ve been saving.
Or, when you’re gestating a human, and you want to put on your best lined slippers and your size-up yoga pants…the good news is you can still cook with really fancy ingredients, to make up for the wine you’re missing. I’m talking those things you bought when you went to the specialty kitchen store or spice bazaar and your husband was like, seriously? Do we even have room in the cabinets? When are we going to use these things? And you give him a look that says: this is already done. You know what I’m talking about.
Saffron, fennel seeds, calasparra rice, all in one dish. You can even wear red lipstick.
Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella
two white or yellow onions, chopped
2 bell peppers (I used an orange and a green)
5 garlic cloves, minced
small handful fennel seeds
small handful saffron threads
4 cups vegetable stock
1 and 1/4 cup calasparra rice (super hard to find – you can substitute another short grain rice like bomba or calrose)
1 cup dry sherry or white wine
bunch parsley, washed and roughly chopped
small handful smoked paprika
1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
other vegetables as you please: grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, etc.
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil and then onions + peppers and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. While these cook, pour the veggie stock into a bowl with the saffron and allow that tasty goodness to infuse the broth.
Add garlic and fennel seeds to the pan, saute for another few minutes, or until onions begin to brown. Turn the heat up and then add a bit more olive oil, add the rice and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the sherry or wine and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates.
Add salt, pepper, parsley, and smoked paprika – stir and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the stock, turn down the heat to medium again and leave your paella alone. No really. No stirring. Let the rice cook in that beautiful stock until there is just a tiny bit of liquid bubbling on top – about 10-15 minutes.
Add the artichokes and/or other vegetables into the top of the rice and push them down (again, taking care not to stir the rice). Cook another 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the whole thing, in order to let all the liquid absorb.
Just before serving, squeeze the juice from the lemon all over the paella and scatter with parsley.
This paella gets even better on days 2 + 3 (which is a good news because this is a LOT for two people, even one person who counts as 1.5). Depending on your level of love for artichokes (mine is quite high) I might even suggest doubling up on those. Get really fancy.
We had a very appropriately 30-something New Year’s Eve, replete with dinner guests, champagne, a charcuterie board, and of course, a game of vodka roulette (the Husband either won or lost, depending on your point of view. The next morning, he felt he had definitely lost). Totally approp.
Our dinner party plans were a little impromptu, and with a couple of guests with dietary restrictions, it was the prefect opportunity to deploy a recipe from Plenty, one of my THREE Christmas present cookbooks. (Apparently, cookbooks are what you get for Christmas the year you start a blog. This is mostly inspiring, though a bit terrifying, as they are beyond gorgeous. And I’m not talking just the food or the photos, either. How does someone raise seven children and a gaggle of dogs and look like this?)
Vegetable Paella For Six (Yotam Ottolenghi, with a few tweaks)
1 onion, sliced
2 orange bell peppers, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and sliced
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 carton baby Bella mushrooms
6 bay leaves
teaspoon smoked paprika
teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups rice (the recipe calls for Calasparra; I found this impossible to find and went with the medium grain Calrose instead)
12 tablespoons sherry
2 teaspoons saffron
4 cups of vegetable stock, brought to a boil
8 plum or Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 15 oz can artichoke hearts, well drained and cut into quarters
plenty of fresh parsley
If you’re serving this as a dinner party dish and want to get the timing done right, best to get your veggies prepped first. Cut up your onion, peppers, fennel, etc. and set aside. The rest of the dish takes about 45 minutes start to finish.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute about 6 minutes; add peppers and fennel and saute until they start to soften. Add garlic and mushrooms, cook an additional minute.
Boil your vegetable stock (your electric water boiler is perfect for this!)
Add bay leaf, turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper and give the mixture a stir. Add the rice and stir it about for two minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. Let that cook off about a minute or so and then add your vegetable stock and a dash of salt (especially if you’re using low sodium broth!). Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 35 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Don’t stir it.
When the rice has cooked through, taste it without disturbing it too much and adjust the seasonings. Add the tomatoes and artichokes to the top and then cover for about 10 minutes, to give a chance for the heat to gently cook them.
Serve with parsley and lemon wedges.
Fact: paella tastes better with seafood. That being said, this was very tasty rice with vegetables, and it had a pretty color, given the turmeric. No hay de que, por lo menos, ¡teníamos bastante cava!