Rick Bayless seems like he’d be a fun guy to hang out with.
He could teach you how to make seventeen different regional variants of guacamole, and you wouldn’t even be bored. Plus, you know he’s totally growing some weed up there in his Topolobampo rooftop garden, and he probably doesn’t mind sharing. He’s probably got seventeen different regional variants of that, too.
Frankly, the guacamole is the bigger draw for me. I loves me some avocado, and the one time I got high I ended up laying in a field, paralyzed and paranoid for upward of three hours before I could move my arms and legs. And when you can’t move your arms, you can’t get the guacamole to your mouth.
I already have a couple of Rick Bayless books, but let’s be honest: can you really have enough? Because the man’s food, it is good.* So last weekend, I picked up a copy of his newest, Fiesta at Rick’s, and was instantly drawn to this recipe for Mexican paella.**
Roasted poblanos? Check. Shrimp? Check. Fresh chorizo? Check. With those ingredients and Rick Bayless to guide you, I don’t see how you could go wrong.***
*Also, I had a coupon.
**He has a recipe available on his website but it serves 25-30, so I hope you’re good with fractions.
***But I still kinda managed to, because I have the gift. The gift of ineptitude.
I started out with the prep work: roasting a poblano and pureeing a can of fire-roasted tomatoes. I also heated up a Dutch oven and put in some chicken thighs to sear off.
While the chicken cooked, I chopped an onion and took a link of fresh chorizo out of its casing. I took a picture of the chorizo, but it turned out unbelievably phallic, too phallic for me to post. And that’s saying something, considering I once posted a photo of the particularly well-hung carrot that came in our CSA box last year*. Veggie porn I’m okay with; meat porn is too close for comfort.
*Unfortunately, I cannot now find the post to link it for you, because, lacking foresight, I didn’t title it anything helpful, like “Carrot with a Penis.”
I pulled the browned chicken out of the pan and put in the chorizo and onion. While they sauteed, I completely mangled the roasted poblano by way of attempting to peel and de-seed it. At least I managed not to stick my fingers into my eyes after handling the chile, as I have been known to do.
With distressing frequency, I might add, because I’ve apparently hit that point in life where I am no longer able to learn. I know what you’re saying, “You never stop learning! Life is a journey!” Well, I’ve figured it out. Also, people who say things like that get on my nerves, so cut it out.
The tomato puree and poblano joined up with the now-browned chorizo and onions and fried for a few minutes until the whole mess was nice and thick.
Then, it was time for the rice.
The recipe called for medium grain rice. I found short grain rice. I found long grain rice. I found brown rice and instant rice and rice pilaf. What could I not find? That’s right, medium grain rice. So I used long-grain, and plowed ahead with the recipe as directed: stir rice into tomato mixture, cook for a few minutes, add hot stock and simmer on the stovetop for precisely 12 minutes.
At the 12-minute mark, my rice was as the book described: mostly cooked but a little chalky in the middle, and with the runny texture of a risotto. I nestled the chicken in, added raw shrimp and tucked the whole mess into the oven to finish cooking through.
You’ll notice, if you’ve looked at the official recipe, that mine has no mussels. I have major textural issues with mussels and unlike fennel, which I am willing to try repeatedly despite clear evidence that I don’t really like it, I can’t get past mussels.
Brian is probably going to be hella pissed when he reads this, because he lurves mussels and would gladly have eaten them all. Sorry, Brian.
Anyway, I retrieved the pot from the oven, stirred in some peas and cilantro, and left it to sit for another 10 minutes so the residual heat could finish cooking everything through.
Unfortunately, despite adding some additional liquid and giving the pot some extra stove time, my rice still ended up spottily cooked. Not that that stopped us from eating it, because we are more than willing to brave some gastro-intestinal distress for good flavor, which this dish had in abundance.
I have to say, I doubted whether the fire-roasted canned tomatoes would really be noticeably different from my standard San Marzanos; they totally were, and you could taste the smoky essence they added. Along with the charry poblano and the paprika-laden chorizo, this dish had incredible depth of flavor with not that many ingredients.
If it didn’t take an hour and a half and an enormous sinkful of dishes to prepare, this meal could become a regular; as it is, it’ll have to be relegated to special occasions. So I guess I’ll have to invent more special occasions.