Alright vegheads, brace yourselves. It was bound to happen, and after a year at the helm, I’m just going to suck it up and do it: a recipe with fish. So now you know our dirty little secret. We’re really pescatarians. But we eat fish so rarely and feel so guilty about it when we do that we’re functionally vegheads. Oy. Let’s move on.

So I’ve never really dug paella. Am I the only one? Maybe it’s the bits of mussel shell that get inadvertently broken and have the nasty habit of sneaking up on you in the midst of what you’re hoping will be a tasty bite. Or perhaps it’s the dusty, musty combination of colored-but-not-flavored paprika and can-taste-like-basement-so-use-it-wisely saffron. Or maybe it’s that cooked bell peppers and rice are too good an approximation of the flavor of all airplane food in the 1980s. I dunno. Bottom line is, I’m just “enh” on paella. Blasphemy, you say!? You should be pleased. It means more for you.

Except that now I’m not so sure you don’t have to worry about competition from me at the paella table. Perhaps it’s due to the moon being perfectly aligned with the stars, or to the fact that I am missing exactly half of the ingredients for a seafood paella according to Ruth Reichel. Either way, tonight I made an almost-paella that I want all to myself. Every night. Me. Mine. Unless you volunteer to bring the wine. Then I might share.

Almost-Paella or Green Chile Paella

Almost-Paella or Green Chile Paella

Almost-Paella (or) Green Chile Paella

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 c. arborio rice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced/mashed/smashed
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 3 T white wine
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/8 t. saffron
  • 4 c. vegetable broth, heated
  • 1 c. peas
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 2-4 T chopped green chile (can substitute 1 chopped fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper)

**A note on kitchen gear: If you have gads of space and a paella pan to fill it, then by all means, break out the paella pan for this recipe. If you’re like me and are trying to get by with the minimum gear needed for maximum gourmetness, you might not have made the paella pan choice. No problem. Just use a large, high-sided saute pan like this. You’ll need the high sides for when you add the liquid so it doesn’t spill out and make a dern mess.

Prep everything first. This is a fast-flyin’ dish when it comes down to it so you don’t want to be stuck chopping onions while the garlic burns. Peel and devein your shrimp, if they aren’t already cleaned. Mash the garlic and combine it with the tomato paste and the salt in a small bowl. Pour the wine, lemon juice, and saffron into a glass and let sit. Chop your scallions into thin rounds. Slice your onion into strips. Measure out your peas (and let them thaw if they’re frozen). Dice or coarsely chop whatever spicy chile you decide to use.* Ok, nice work. You’re ready.

Preheat your oven to 400° F. Put 3 T olive oil in the frying pan and heat on medium high. When hot, throw in the shrimp and shimmy around for a few (two-ish) minutes. The goal here is not to cook the shrimp, just to sear it nicely. It’ll cook fully later. When seared on both sides, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Put the tomato paste, garlic and salt into the hot oil and fry for a minute, stirring constantly so the tomato paste doesn’t burn. Add the rice and stir so the tomato paste coats the grains evenly. Add the bay leaves, the wine/lemon/saffron mixture, the hot veggie broth, and a generous grrrp-grrrp-grrrp of black pepper. Give a good stir and allow to simmer for 5ish minutes. Add the scallions, onion, and peas and stir again. Arrange the shrimp on top. Place the pan uncovered in the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, pull it out and test the rice. The rice should be a bit too al dente. Cover the pan and let sit for another 10 minutes. Test the rice again. If it’s not done, add another 1/4 c. boiling water and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Follow the same plan after pulling it out of the oven the second time – let sit, covered, for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley, garnish with lemon slices. Serves 2-3 hungry hippos.

*A word on chile-ville: New Mexico green chiles are akin to the Sirens in Greek mythology and have been known to inspire obsessive behavior in their victims. Once you’ve tasted them you will go to great lengths to have them readily available in your home. Assuming you have not been bitten by the NM green chile bug and therefore don’t have a freezer full of roasted, peeled and seeded chiles ready to thaw and chop, I’ll offer some other options to achieve chileness.

  1. I have seen channed green chile at the supermarket; you can use these.
  2. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can buy 2 poblano peppers, roast them in a broiler, turning them every 5-10 minutes until the skins are blackened. Place them in a paper bag and close the top to let them steam. When cool, peel off the skin and remove the stems and seeds. Chop and use in place of the green chile.
  3. Or, you can just use a fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper, finely chopped.
    1. Your call.