Category Archives: Casseroles

Paella!

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Paella! Should always be written with an exclamation point at the end. Because it’s exciting! It was certainly the punch in the mouth I needed lately. In a non-violent, non scary way.

I’ve been an extremely grumpybear the past couple weeks. Yes, I said grumpybear (I like to use ‘bear’ as a suffix). I felt like I was making the same kinds of dishes over and over again. So one of my friends suggested that I make Paella! Why Paella?! Because he wanted step-by-step photo instructions on how to make it for himself. And what are friends for if they can’t manipulate each other into getting what they want?

Of course, I’m saying that jokingly. Since I ransacked his apartment and stole all his stuff last month. And I got him to believe I helped him clean out his apartment for him. He even thanked me for taking his possessions off his hands.

*evil laughter*

So we’re even now.

Paella! is so friggin delicious!!! Paella (Pie-Aey-A) is a Spanish dish that has a bunch of meats and/or seafood cooked with rice, and spices. I looked through various websites trying to figure out the best way to cook this without all the extra equipment (paella pan). And after trial and error, I provide for you a foolproof recipe. This recipe requires that you cook some ingredients on the stovetop first, then put all the ingredients into a large, deep baking pan, and bake until the rice absorbs all the flavors of the seafood and meats. And paella! is especially easy to throw together with as many meats and seafood as you like. Just use roughly the same proportions I have, and the rice will bake up nice and fluffy in the oven. If you like chicken, substitute cooked and cubed chicken for the chorizo I’ve used, or split it. If you like fresh mussels, substitute that for the canned baby clams I’ve used. And so on. You really can’t go wrong.

The most time consuming part of this recipe is cutting up the ingredients. Other than that, putting it together is fairly easy.

A few must have spices for this dish include: Paprika, Rosemary, Thyme, Cumin and Saffron. That is what will bring out the flavors for paella.

Paella!

printable recipe

Serves: 6 to 8 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 small green bell pepper
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 chorizo sausages
  • 10 shrimp
  • 10 oz. clams
  • 6 oz. tilapia
  • 1/2 cup mild olive oil
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron
  • 4 Tbsp. capers (optional)
  • 24 oz. rice, uncooked
  • 48 fl. oz. chicken broth
  • lemon wedges for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Equipment: skillet and deep baking dish (roughly 15.5” x 11.5” x 2.5”)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Chop peppers, onion, and tomato into small pieces. Mince garlic. Set in bowl all together. Slice chorizo into small pieces, set aside in bowl. Cut tilapia into small chunks, same size as chorizo. Set aside in bowl. To that bowl, add deveined and shelled shrimp, and clams.

2) Heat 1/4 cup oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add garlic, onion, peppers and tomatoes. Cook until onion is translucent. Set aside in bowl.

3) Heat another 1/4 cup oil in the skillet on medium high heat. Toast rice in skillet until translucent. Put rice in baking dish, add broth, paprika, rosemary, thyme, cumin, saffron and capers. Add vegetables, seafood and meat. Mix so everything is covered with broth and spices are equally distributed around pan.

4) Bake at 450 degrees, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Check towards the end of the baking time to see if all the liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked thoroughly (oven times and temperatures vary). Serve with lemon wedges, salt and pepper to taste.

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Like I said, cutting up the ingredients is the most time consuming part of the process. At least for me it is. Unless you have mad chopping skills.

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It was probably slow going for me since I was drinking wine and watching TV as I was cutting up peppers. It probably affected my concentration and I could’ve chopped a finger or two off. But it’d probably just end up looking like chorizo afterwards.

Wait, did I just say that?! No…no I didn’t.

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Cutting the vegetables and fingers into the same sizes will guarantee they cook equally at the same time. Did I say fingers? I meant fingers.

I’m just kidding. I didn’t cut any fingers up.

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The fresh clams at the store were offered at $6 per 2 dozen. I am cheap, so I bought a 10 oz. can of baby clams for $1.89.

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Here are some chicken fingers I mean sausages.

I was a little irked that our fancy supermarket didn’t carry standard Chorizo sausages anymore. They offer Chicken Chorizo (not as much Uumph as normal Chorizo), it was either that or gourmet Chorizo for $10 a package!!! I can’t afford $10 sausages. That costs as much as an arm and a leg and a finger!

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Chop chorizo as shown above.

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A small bottle of saffron costs between $4-$16. I don’t understand the price range, nor do I ever use saffron in my cooking. But almost all the paella recipes I’ve seen used saffron, so I figured it was necessary. It’s a good spice staple to have in your pantry. I’ll probably use it in other dishes later on.

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Cook the veggies in oil until the onions are translucent. Set aside in bowl. Then toast the rice in oil until translucent.

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Put rice in baking dish, add broth, paprika, rosemary, thyme, cumin, saffron and capers. Add vegetables, seafood and meat. Mix so everything is covered with broth and spices are equally distributed around pan.

*Capers are typically sold in glass jars, by the jarred stuff (pickles, olives, peppers). Good to know, if you’ve never used or seen them before.

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Bake at 450 degrees, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Check towards the end of the baking time to see if all the liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked thoroughly (oven times and temperatures vary).

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This dish came out beautifully. The rice cooked up fluffy and absorbed all the delicious flavors of the peppers, seafood and chorizo. We couldn’t stop eating it after we were stuffed. It’s an undo your belt buckle kind of meal. Or a sweatpants with elastic band-wearing kind of meal.

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Salt and pepper to your taste. I do this at the end because I never know how salty or peppery each person wants their dish.

If you like your dish a little spicy, add a spicy hot sauce you prefer. A couple drops of this Chile Habanero we got from Mexico burns my mouth into the fiery depths of the underworld.

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Serve with lemon wedges.

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And enjoy!

Shells ‘n Cheese, all growed up.

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After I made this I was like OMG OMG OMG THIS IS SO FRIGGIN GOOD!!!!! 

But I couldn’t muster up the courage to post it for the past few weeks. When something comes along this delicious I want to hide it in a safe and never speak of it again. It’s one of those things, like when a stranger asks you how much you spent on your purse or shoes, or how much money you make at your job, and you get all defensive, like, it’s none of your damn business, and you wonder, wow, the nerve of some people, how can they ask something like that, because some information shouldn’t be divulged for public knowledge.  

This recipe was adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese on foodnetwork.com, but with a few modifications and added ingredients to make your life a little more complicated. You’re welcome! Like, I’ve added spinach and bacon. I’ve been using bacon A LOT, can you tell? 

It also has a fantastic panko bread crumb crust baked on top. The panko gives it a golden, crispy crunchiness that regular bread crumbs can’t compete with. And spinach + bacon is always a great combo. 

And yes, I know I the word ‘growed’ in the title is not a real word, it was just used for effect. 

Shells ‘n Cheese with Spinach and Bacon (serves 6-8) 

printable recipe 

Prep time: 30 min. 

Bake time: 30 min. 

Ingredients: 

  • 8 oz. pasta shells
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 10 oz. chopped spinach, cooked
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 egg
  • 12 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pepper to taste

Topping: 

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions: 

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2) In skillet, cook bacon and crumble. Reserve bacon fat on skillet for bread crumbs later. Boil spinach as instructed on box. Cook pasta in large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. 

3) You can use either a 2 quart casserole dish, or two smaller casserole dishes to gain the maximum surface area for covering with golden bread crumbs. I used 2 dishes, of course. Pour pasta, bacon and spinach into dishes, mixing together. 

4) In a medium size pot, make the sauce. Melt butter on medium heat, whisk in flour until thickened. Stir in milk, onion and paprika. Simmer for 10 minutes. Temper in egg. To temper, just stir in a few tablespoons of the hot milk from the pot into the egg, then pour the egg into sauce, stirring vigorously. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Add salt and pepper. 

5) In the skillet with bacon fat, heat on medium and toss in bread crumbs to coat. If you have cholesterol issues, or feel that this is ‘unhealthy’, use olive oil instead of bacon fat. 

6) Pour sauce into casserole dishes, mixing to combine. Add remainder of cheese, and sprinkle bread crumbs on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy! 

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Illustrated Directions: 

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2) In skillet, cook bacon and crumble. Reserve bacon fat on skillet for bread crumbs later. Boil spinach as instructed on box. Cook pasta in large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. 

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3) You can use either a 2 quart casserole dish, or two smaller casserole dishes to gain the maximum surface area for covering with golden bread crumbs. I used 2 dishes, of course. Pour pasta, bacon and spinach into dishes, mixing together. 

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4) In a medium size pot, make the sauce. Melt butter on medium heat, whisk in flour until thickened. 

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Stir in milk, onion and paprika. Simmer for 10 minutes. 

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Temper in egg (sorry no picture!). To temper, just stir in a few tablespoons of the hot milk from the pot into the egg, then pour the egg into sauce, stirring vigorously. 

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Add salt and pepper. 

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5) In the skillet with bacon fat, heat on medium and toss in bread crumbs to coat. If you have cholesterol issues, or feel that this is ‘unhealthy’, use olive oil instead of bacon fat. 

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6) Pour sauce into casserole dishes, mixing to combine. 

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Add remainder of cheese, 

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and sprinkle bread crumbs on top. 

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Bake for 30 minutes. 

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Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy! 

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It’s ok, your monitor doesn’t need to be adjusted. Yes, we do add ketchup to our mac ‘n cheese. Stop giving me that disgusted look! 

First I give you a fancy pants version of mac ‘n cheese, then I destroy the concept by doing something completely childish. 

Back in college, I worked as a cook at a daycare for the summer. I should’ve added that in my resume…but in the menu rotation was mac ‘n cheese, and I was told to squirt a crapload of ketchup into the cheese sauce, to give it more flavor. So I did it, and it worked. Plus it gave the cheese that fake velveeta orangey look that every kid knows and loves. Then I started to do it at home. And when Chris saw me do it for the first time after we were married, he asked, “Who ARE you?! I don’t even know you anymore!” with a disgusted, embarrassed look on his face that put me to shame, as I lowered my head down to my plate, salty tears falling into a ketchupy, cheesy chaos. 

But this plate I’m showing you isn’t mine. 

Someone’s conforming….. 

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Resistance is futile. 

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Hey, at least I had some class. I put my ketchup on the side for dipping.

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