Dreams of summer. They're inevitable this time of year, when memories of sun and warmth are fuzzy at best, and it's hard to believe that you'll ever be able to step outside without a coat again. Moorish Paella, warm with spice and color, is a ticket out of this greyness. It tastes of warm nights in faraway places. Tartine's genius lemon cream is equally transporting: soft, breezy and positively luscious. Dinner is indeed a good time to escape.
4 bone-in skin on chicken thighs
4 small or 2 large links of Merguez sausage (chorizo is fine if you can't find the lamb sausage)
1/2 head of cauliflower cut into pieces
1 teaspoon caraway, ground
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon harissa
2 cups Arborio (or other short grain) rice
8 ounces tomato sauce
3 cups chicken stock
Salt to taste
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry wine (white or rose)
1. In the morning place the chicken thighs in a plastic bag or bowl with a generous amount of salt to brine in fridge all day or at least 1 hour. Mix ground spices together in bowl with pinch of salt.
2. Cut sausage into discs and brown on each side in pan. You can leave them in links to brown as well, I prefer to cut them before cooking. Remove sausage onto paper towel lined plate and let cool. Leave fat in pan. Turn off heat if you need a few minutes to prepare next step.
3. Remove chicken from refrigerator and pat dry. Use the sausage fat and add olive oil if you need more. Over medium-high heat brown chicken skin side down for 3-5 minutes or until rich brown, turn over and brown for 2 more minutes. Remove chicken to plate with sausage.
4. Add olive oil as needed and onion to pan and cook about 3 minutes. Add dash of salt and a spoonful of the spice mixture. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes. Add more of the spice mixture.
5. Add wine and scrape bottom of pan for any bits. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add sausage and harissa and stir until harissa is well incorporated. Add tomato puree and cook for 5 minutes. Add more spice mixture.
6. Add rice and distribute evenly across the pan. Add chicken. Add chicken stock. Add the rest of the spice mixture and season with salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until rice is cooked through--I find this varies depending on the stove top--20-30 minutes. You can cover the pan if it is taking too long to cook. After it is done cooking let sit off the heat for 2-4 minutes. Serve.
The Grocery List
4 chicken thighs
4 merguez sausages (chorizo is fine, too)
1/2 head cauliflower
2 cups Arborio rice
About 4 lemons (for 1/2 cup plus of juice) Meyer or regular
We bet you've already got tomato sauce, chicken stock, caraway, paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, onion, garlic, olive oil, butter, wine, salt, sugar, and eggs. If not, you'll need those, too!
1. NWB has it all figured out. First thing, pop those chicken thighs in a simple salt brine (the morning of, if you're working that far ahead). Or skip it if you don't want to wait.
2. Make the paella! The lemon cream is quite simple, but it will need your full attention through the whole (short) process so it's something I'd tackle after dinner. So, cook the sausages and brown the chicken.
3. Begin layering the flavors. Add the onions, cauliflower, spices. Then more spices, wine, tomato sauce. Add the chicken back to the pot along with rice and stock. Now it simmers for about 20 to 30 minutes.
4. If you're really anxious to get it done, or just a terrific multi-tasker, this could be a window to make the lemon cream if you'd really like to not wait until after dinner. If you want, now is your moment! Lemon cream it up!
5. Dinner is served! Then, later, a bowlful of creamy California sunshine for dessert. Sweet dreams.
First photo by Sarah Shatz; second by James Ransom