Paella's always a perfect choice when you want to dazzle dinner guests but don't want to spend all your time in the kitchen. Many versions can be made ahead of time, giving you ample time to enjoy your company as well as the meal.
Arroz con chorizo y camarones: According to creator Mayi Brady, "This rice with chorizo dish -- think of it as a simple paella -- calls for Spanish chorizo, an aged sausage which is firmer than Mexican chorizo and less spicy. It's available at Spanish and some Latino markets. If you can't find it, substitute Portuguese linguica sausage, often available in supermarkets."
Paella de mariscos: Chef Joe Miller's seafood variation is bright with color and flavor, and can be made in less than an hour. Make it ahead of time if you'd like; the paella will keep for up to two hours at room temperature before serving.
Rice salad, paella style: Cook rice as you would pasta to bring out the perfect texture in the grains, then drain, adding saffron and red onion to gently infuse flavor before cooling the rice. Before serving, add red pepper strips, chorizo, calamari and mussels, flavoring the salad with vibrant red pepper strips, fresh lemon juice and parsley. It's a dramatic presentation, and no one has to know how easy it was to put together. You can find the recipe below.
RICE SALAD, PAELLA STYLE
Total time: 40 minutes, plus cooling time | Serves 6 to 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, cubed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound mussels in shell
1/4 pound calamari, cut into rings and bite-sized pieces
0.2 grams saffron threads
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed well
3/4 cup sliced bottled roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook until it begins to brown and render fat, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and increase the heat to high. When the wine is bubbling, add the mussels, cover and cook until the shells open, about 5 minutes. Add the calamari and cook until the edges curl, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chorizo, mussels and calamari to a bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate until needed. Add the saffron threads to the liquid in the pan and return to the heat. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half to about one-third of a cup.
4. Place the red onion in a strainer and rinse under cold water to remove some of its "bite."
5. Cook the rice as you would pasta: Add the rice to the boiling water and cook until it is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Do not overcook or undercook it; the rice should be soft all the way through but should not be beginning to "explode" at the ends.
6. Line a jellyroll pan with a kitchen towel. Drain the rice and rinse it quickly under cool water, then spread it over the kitchen towel. Cover with another kitchen towel and gently pat dry.
7. Transfer the rice to a large mixing bowl. Pour the saffron liquid over the rice, add the red onion and stir gently with a wide rubber spatula to coat evenly. The rice should be a uniform golden color. Season to taste with about 1 teaspoon of salt, and set aside to cool completely. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to one day in advance and refrigerated tightly covered; bring the rice back to room temperature before finishing the recipe. You may need to add a little olive oil to finish.)
8. Add the red pepper strips, lemon juice, parsley, chorizo and calamari to the rice, and stir gently to mix well. Season to taste. Transfer to a large, flat serving bowl, and scatter the cooked mussels over the top. Serve at room temperature.
Each of 8 servings: Calories 355; Protein 15 grams; Carbohydrates 46 grams; Fiber 2 grams; Fat 10 grams; Saturated fat 3 grams; Cholesterol 57 mg; Sugar 1 gram; Sodium 601 mg.