I love one-dish meals. One-dish wonders, I call them.
The reason I like one-dish wonders is because making them relieves me from the pressure of having to coordinate the finishing times of two or three separate meal elements. And honestly, after I’ve got one dish going, I rarely have the energy left to make an accompaniment or side dish.
In other words, we eat a lot of pasta—but there is rarely salad to go with it.
Next to pasta, my favorite kind of one-dish wonders are dishes that include rice. Paella: Bring it on! Risotto, love it but I hate the standing and stirring.
Today I found a solution:
Last week, I interviewed New York chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin restaurant for an upcoming issue of Northeast Flavor magazine. To prepare, I went online and watched old episodes of Ripert’s PBS show, Avec Eric.
The episode where Ripert makes paella may have changed my life.
The paellas I’ve made before have been baked in the oven, covered. Ripert makes his version on the stovetop—in an open pan—much like risotto except that all the stock is added at once and there is no stirring! Ripert even uses a Spanish short grain rice that looks very much like Arborio, the rice usually used for paella.
This got me thinking. (I know, dangerous) Is it possible to prepare a risotto recipe using Ripert’s paella technique and thus avoid the incessant stirring?
Last night I experimented on a vegetarian risotto recipe from Everyday Greens by Annie Somerville—which I modified by adding chorizo and omitting the cheese. Instead of adding the stock in increments, I added it all at once—without even heating it.
I did stir a tiny bit when I added each of the other ingredients—largely because my pan is much too large for the small burners on my decrepit old stove, and I was worried the rice wouldn’t cook evenly. The stirring caused my rice to release starch. Coupled with the fact that I added too much stock, I got a somewhat creamier than I’d planned on—but still very delicious result. A perfectly good—but easier to make—risotto alternative, I think.
It made a really great fall meal.
Next time I’m going to experiment with not stirring and adding less stock to get a less soupy, more paella-like consistency. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.
Risotto Paella with Butternut Squash and Kale
Adapted from Everyday Greens by Annie Somerville
1 small butternut squash cut into ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 small bunch of kale, stems removed—about 2 cups packed leaves
2 links Portugese chorizo, sliced thin
1 medium-sized sweet onion—diced
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1½ cups Arborio rice
7 cups chicken stock
½ cup white wine
1. Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Spread squash on a cookie sheet and roast until almost tender—about 15 minutes.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Add kale and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and cool. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Coarsely chop and set aside.
3. Heat a very large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. Add oil. When oil is hot, add chorizo and brown slightly. Then add onions and garlic. Cook over low heat until the onions are soft and translucent, but not brown, about 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes. Add wine and chicken stock. Heat to a simmer and continue simmering for five minutes.
5. Add the squash to the pan. Stir just to combine. Continue to simmer ten minutes.
6. Add kale to the pan. Stir just to combine. Continue to simmer until rice is desired consistency. Serve.