Paella: Then and Now
I’ve been thinking a lot about paella lately. I’ve been thinking about the last time I ate an amazing seafood paella. It was in New York, about 6 years ago and I was celebrating with CSI Creator, Anthony Zuiker, and my creative team after a successful pitch made at CBS headquarters earlier that day. I’ve been thinking about the excitement I felt then, after that career milestone, and how it doesn’t compare to what I’m feeling today, as I submit resumes and prepare for my return to the full-time workforce. I’ve been thinking about writing this post: the story of a homemade paella, a traditional rice dish to celebrate the THENS and the NOWS of life and all the fun the future may bring.
Hard to believe that 4 years have passed since Brett and I made the confident choice to not renew a work contract so I could take some time to focus on motherhood for “a little while”. I had serious doubts about surviving a year without work but being a first-time mom to that spectacular baby Edie kept me very busy and that first year managed to fly by. Then we had a couple significant deaths in the family, Alice was born and I had 2 little ones to care for, we decided to plan a wedding and buy a house and move to the suburbs and … stuff. Somehow these years have kept me busy enough to stay (somewhat) sane. It’s been fun and a great benefit to my girls’ lives but the time has come to reconnect with that career path and continue working towards the ultimate goal of opening my own restaurant.
It wasn’t that long ago that I wore the title of Product Manager for the CSI: Crime Scene Investigations and CSI: Miami franchise. I made games out of the TV shows. Seriously. I would work with the creative teams scattered across Canada and the U.S. and design prototypes within a budget and schedule. I would lead these mock-ups through an extensive approval process within CBS, King World, Jerry Bruckheimer Productions and each of the Executive Producers. During this time, I would also be working with sales teams to arrange pre-sale viewings and open distribution channels with the big guys, like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. Once we were ready for production, I would flip my schedule and work with Hong Kong manufacturers through the night. When a game was released, I oversaw all marketing and publicity of the product. This meant press junkets, dealing with ridiculous actor riders and much more travel. Most weeks I was commuting between Toronto and L.A., with an excursion to New York or Las Vegas every once and awhile. It was very busy. There was no time for real relationships; just work, my blackberry and cocktails. That was then. This is now.
From Executive speak, to nursery rhymes, to committed foodie. I’m not 100% certain what the next job title will be but I finally have some clarity of what I am looking for and optimistic that I’ll find a good fit. If I become frustrated with the job hunt and start venting through blogging, just bare with the ‘Bullsh*t Banana Bread‘s and ‘Hiring-Within -is-for-Suckers Stew‘ posts. We’ll get through it together I’m actually pretty excited to use this new sense of confidence and stability motherhood has given me. If there is anything my girls have taught me these past 4 years, it is true patience and how to communicate with the most stubborn of individuals. These skills are always great to have in the workforce, right?!
Feeling the winds of change upon us, I’m calling this dish the ‘This Is Now Paella‘. Although paella is traditionally a Spanish dish, loaded with fragranced rice and meat, I’ve turned to the Food Revolution Cookbook by the fantastic and British Jamie Oliver for this version of the seafood paella. I will always remember those paellas ordered in the most exclusive of Manhattan restaurants, but today I made it on my own stove top, to a soundtrack of screaming kids and Dora sing-a-longs and it tasted pretty damn fine. I think this very dish proves I can have it all.
“The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.” – James Yorke
This Is Now Paella
Inspired by the brilliant Jamie Oliver
Serves 6 very healthy servings
- 1 pound mixed seafood (mussels, peeled shrimp, squid, white fish)
- 1 chorizo sausage, sliced at an angle, 1/4-inch-thick
- 4 thick slices smoked bacon, preferably free-range or organic, chopped into 1″ long squares
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 large pinches saffron
- 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) chicken stock (preferably organic)
- 2 cups paella rice (if you can’t find,calrose rice works nicely as well)
- 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 1 handful fresh peas
- 1 lemon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Before turning any heat sources on, do all of your prep work. This dish isn’t difficult but it does require some extra effort prepping. Scrub your muscles and removed any open ones, prepare your squid rings (remove tentacles, outer fin, rinse and cut), cube your fish (I used a single tilapia filet) and clean, peel and devein your shrimp. Once all of your seafood is ready to rock, you can start to prepare your meat and broth.
Place a large casserole type pan on high heat and drizzle in some oil. Add the parsley, the chorizo slices and bacon chunks to the pan and stir together. Once crisp, turn the heat down, add the onion and garlic to the pan, and allow to soften. Add the saffron and rice to the pan with a pinch of salt and pepper, stir it all together. Pour the chicken stock into the pan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously to bring all of that goodness on the bottom up. Put a lid on the pan, turn heat down to a simmer and cook the rice according to the package instructions.
When the rice is nearly done, stir in the seafood and peas, then squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the mix. Cook for 5 more minutes, have a taste, add more salt and pepper if needed and a little extra water if you think it’s needed – you don’t want the rice to become too dry. Serve in the middle of the table with some lemon wedges for squeezing over and have everyone help themselves.
Wish me luck with the job hunt and enjoy this truly classic dish with those you love. xo