“What’s for dinner?”

I have no idea. By my count, I’ve already made 23 dinners this week, 20 of which were for other people. The last thing I want to do tonight is turn out a big production for my family.

But while takeout pizza or snacky stuff would delight the children, the husband is a bit more demanding.

I haven’t grocery shopped. I have a chicken breast and a handful of shrimp defrosted in the fridge. A few links of chorizo. Some lonely looking cilantro and green onions. Certainly not enough to feed two hungry boy-men and a starving hub.

Then again …

That pantry is a marvel. With a few staples (rice, broth, spices), we have a gorgeous platter of (faux) paella on the table in 30 minutes.

Pretty good for a 24th dinner!


30-Minute Paella

This recipe is adapted from a 2008 Bon Appetit cookbook. The original is a two-day affair with exacting measurements and ingredients. Pshaw! Use whatever you have on hand. The only must-have is Arborio rice.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1/2 pound peeled & deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 pound fully cooked chorizo or kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Handful of cilantro stems
  • 4 garlic cloves, divided
  • Zest from 1 lemon or 2 limes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika, divided
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • Juice from 1 lemon or 2 limes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  •  1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped seeded jalepeno or pickled jalepeno

In a food processor, combine the cilantro stems, 2 garlic cloves, the citrus zest, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, some salt and pepper. Process until roughly chopped, then add enough olive oil to make a paste. Slather the paste over the chicken strips and shrimp.

Glaze a deep pot with olive oil. Saute the onion over medium heat until it’s translucent, then add the remaining garlic, the saffron and the remaining teaspoon of paprika. Stir for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and citrus juice to the pot. Add the Arborio rice and stir well to coat the rice. Pour in the chicken broth, and bring the mixture to a boil.

Place the chicken strips and sausage slices into the rice mixture, being sure to include all your marinade. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes.

After the 15 minutes are up, place the shrimp and its marinade, the cilantro, the scallions and the jalepeno atop the mixture. Recover, and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

When the 10 minutes have passed, check to make sure the rice is tender and the shrimp are cooked through. Stir well, making sure to get the crusty bits of rice from the pan’s bottom.

Voila! Dinner is served!