Whenever my sister and I get together, we love to cook.
She lives in Cleveland, so we don't get to see each other that often, but when we do, we head for the kitchen, haul out the pans and start chopping (onions and garlic, that is).
It's amazing how well we work together. Never delegating a duty, we anticipate what needs to be done whether it's washing a dish or sharpening a knife, or even taking out the garbage. We talk and laugh and catch up, and in the process put out some pretty fine meals.
Suzanne is a great cook and an adventuresome one, so we always try to make something out of the ordinary when we decide on a menu (that way, if it doesn't turn out we can each blame the other one).
Last week, on my visit there, we made paella. Each of us had visited Spain, and we wanted to re-create that famous Spanish dish made with a variety of meats and shellfish combined with saffron-flavored rice.
She had a paella pan, and I brought the special Calasparra rice that's used in the dish, so we headed to Cleveland's West Side Market with our shopping list to gather the rest of the goodies.
Now, as far as ingredients, just about anything goes (from artichoke hearts to lobster to squid), but we decided on chorizo, chicken, shrimp and mussels, and it was the perfect combination.
We started the pan on the stovetop, popped it in the oven for 45 minutes and within an hour and a half had a magical meal that I swear was better than any paella I had in Spain.
You don't need a sister to make this dish, but it sure makes the cooking a lot more fun.
You can find Calasparra or Bomba rice at specialty markets, at www.tienda.com or Zingerman's in Ann Arbor.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat olive oil in heavy large pot or paella pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped bacon and cook until fat is rendered, about 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels and drain. Set aside. Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add chicken to bacon drippings in pot and cook over medium heat until brown, about 7 minutes per side. Using tongs, remove chicken from pot.
Add chopped onions, garlic and chorizo to pot and saute until beginning to brown, scraping up any browned bits, about 10 minutes. Stir in rice, and saffron. Add clam juice and chicken stock slowly to pan, scraping up brown bits and bring mixture to simmer.
Remove from heat.
If using paella pan, cover it with foil or pour rice mixture into15-by-10-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange chicken, shrimp, clams and mussels in rice mixture. Sprinkle with chopped bacon and peas. Cover dish with foil.
Bake paella until chicken is cooked through, clams and mussels open and rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Discard any clams and mussels that do not open. Remove foil from baking dish. Let paella stand 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 656 calories; 24 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 33 percent calories from fat); 60 g carbohydrates; 208 mg cholesterol; 778 mg sodium; 47 g protein; 3 g fiber.