Since living in the Philippines I have had more paella than I had collectively my whole life. I really do love the dish but sometimes get the urge to change it up a bit. My friend Marco Lobregat from Ministry of Mushrooms (more on this later) asked me if I could create a recipe using his mushrooms, to which I happily agreed. Somewhere in there I missed the part where it was supposed to be a healthy recipe. Hmm…kind of a tall order for a cook who specializes in melting animals and then putting them back together again. I was really thinking of a heart-stopper. At any rate I took the challenge and here it is.
I decided to use a local red rice instead of a refined rice, inspired by my visit at Mamou. Both red rice and oyster mushrooms are loaded with minerals and antioxidants and are very good for you. The only fat used is extra virgin olive oil. Feel free to substitute what you like and what’s available to you especially for the garnishes. The same could be done with seafood or with eggplant instead of asparagus. Quail eggs are purely optional but damn tasty. Here are the ingredients:
Serves 4-6 people
For the broth:
40 g dried mushrooms
1 large carrot, peeled, large dice
2 stalks celery, large dice
1 medium onion, large dice
3 cloves garlic, whole
3 bay leaves
chicken bones and trim (see below)
leek tops (see below)
10 whole black peppercorns
several sprigs fresh thyme
several parsley stems
For the rest
1 whole small chicken
1 cup red rice
125 g fresh oyster mushrooms (larger pieces can be torn)
1 medium onion, small dice
1/2 cup leek bottoms, small dice
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 lb asparagus (approx)
10 small whole tomatoes
10 whole shallots (sibuyas tagalog)
10 quail eggs, boiled
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh thyme, whole
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
First chop all of the vegetables for the broth and add them to a stock pot. Then break down your chicken as above and add it to the vegetables and cover with water. Add the herbs and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30-45 minutes skimming and scum or foam that comes to the surface. Strain out the solids and reserve the liquid in a sauce pot. Take out about a cup of the reconstituted mushrooms and roughly chop them and reserve. You will have extra mushrooms now, which will be great for a soup or pasta.
Preheat your oven to 200 c or 400 f. One a sheet tray or roasting pan, align all of your tomatoes, shallots and asparagus so they are segregated and not mixed together as they will have very different cooking times. Drizzle them with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pop the in the oven, removing each one as it finished cooking. Set aside.
Next preheat a paella pan on medium-high heat (if you do’t have one an ordinary sauté pan will work fine). Season Add enough extra virgin olive oil to just coat the bottom of the pan and add your chicken skin-side down. Cook until golden brown. With the exception of the drumsticks, I only cook the chicken pieces on one side at this stage to crisper and brown the skin. Once the skin is brown remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the fresh oyster mushrooms to the hot pan. This is where it gets tricky. Don’t do anything. Don’t move them and don’t season them. If you do either they will release moisture and turn grey instead of a nice brown. Once they brown you may add salt and pepper a couple whole sprigs of thyme and stir. They will cook quickly so pay attention. When they have browned and softened, finish with chopped parsley, remove and set aside. Bring your broth to a low simmer.
Now add the leeks, onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the red rice and toast slightly, stirring constantly. Add about two cups of the hot broth and lower heat to a simmer and add your reserved reconstituted dried oyster mushrooms. As it dries up add more broth. Now open a beer and relax because this is going to take a while. As it cooks the liquid will thicken so make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. Keep stirring and adding liquid as needed. If you run out of broth, that’s ok, just use water.
Once the rice begins to soften, add your chicken back to the pan skin side up. Simmer in the liquid until the chicken is cooked through. Remove again until the cooking of the rice is complete.
Red rice takes a while to cook and it’s kind of hard to overcook. I cooked mine for about an hour. Once the rice reaches the desired texture you can start garnishing your paella. Arrange the chicken, vegetables and quail eggs however you like and allow the liquid to dry up and the bottom to crust.
The lazy method
Like I said, the red rice takes a while. So if you want to make it easier just add it to your rice cooker with a 1:1.5 ratio of rice to water and cook as normal. When the water dries up it will be par-cooked and still hard. Then add it to your paella pan just before you add the broth. This should save about 20 minutes of hands-on time.