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The Paella Challenge Returns to the Pearl on March 13

Paella Gaucho mussels CanterAre you ready for some paella?

The seventh annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl is fast approaching. It will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 13.

paella soul food half cropChefs from across the city and region as well as a few from across the country will gather to present their unique take on the dish. Some will be as classic as can be, others will feature outrageous combinations of ingredients designed to delight the palate and challenge the taster. High school culinary programs from the city will also be on hand to show what they’re learning while competing for honors.

Tickets are priced at $80.12 for those 21 or older and $27.37 for those under 21. Prices include all you can eat and drink. For tickets, click here.

If you’re not familiar with paella, it’s a Spanish dish that begins with garlic and olive oil and then builds layer upon layer of flavor. Most are made with rice, but pasta is not unheard of as the base. Then you use your choice of seafood, chicken, chorizo, meats and vegetables in flavorful combinations.

At the Paella Challenge, you’ll see chefs using large paella pans and cook stands created especially for the occasion. But you don’t need any special equipment. This recipe for French Paella, from Francoise Bernard’s “La Cuisine: Everyday French Home Cooking,” uses a casserole dish or Dutch oven that you can use on a stove top. That way, you can make some for your next special occasion.

Play with the ingredients and tailor them to suit your family’s tastes.

French Paella

1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
5 ounces boneless bottom round veal roast, cut into 1/2-inch dice
5 ounces boneless shoulder end pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 or 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tomatoes, peeled seeded and coarsely chopped
3 1/2 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups rice for paella, such as Bomba or Calasparra (see note)
Pinch of saffron threads
1 cup fresh or frozen petit pois peas
1 can artichoke bottoms, drained and quartered
1 1/2 pounds langoustines or head-on prawns

Add the mussels to a large pot, cover and cook over high heat, stirring once or twice, just until they open, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a bowl and remove 1 shell from each. Pour the broth through a fine strainer lined with a moistened paper towel into a glass measuring cup.

paella traditionalIn a very large flame-proof casserole, melt the butter in the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, veal and pork and cook until nicely browned. Add the onions and bell pepper and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in the zucchini, tomatoes, chorizo, garlic and reserved mussel broth. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Add the rice saffron and enough water to barely cover the rice. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the peas and artichokes and cook until the rice is tender and the water is absored, 10 to 20 minutes. Add the langoustines and mussels in the half shell just long enough to cook the langoustines. Transfer to a large serving dish or a large skillet and serve.

Serve sangria as an aperitif, but no hors d’oeuvre. After the paella, you can serve a salad if you like and a light dessert such as fruit or ice cream. For wine, pour a chilled rose or light red wine.

Note: Check specialty food outlets like for paella rice.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From “La Cuisine: Everyday French Home Cooking” by Francoise Bernard

paella food bank

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