Ironbound at Home

For those of you following the blog the last few weeks we’ve been concentrating a lot on Newark’s Ironbound. If you don’t live in the NY/NJ Metro area, you probably won’t be experiencing the food there anytime soon, which is a shame. But its certainly possible to replicate some of those dishes in your own kitchen.

One of the most popular dishes served in the Ironbound is Paella Valenciana, which is a Spanish rice dish made with saffron. I happen to be nutso crazy about it, because it has everything you could possibly want in it — a one dish meal with rice, seafood, sausage, and chicken. Its easy to make, and a great dish if you’re serving a whole bunch of people for a party or a dinner at home.

The first thing you are going to want to do is roast up a red bell pepper and cut it into strips. Roasting a pepper is easy — just put it directly on top of the burners on your range going full blast until the skin chars, turning it over to char the skin evenly on all sides with a pair of tongs (or you could just fire up your gas grill at full blast and roast it there). Then throw the hot blackened pepper in a plastic bag, which loosens the skin by creating steam. Slide all the skin off and then cut into strips as above.

You’ll need a pinch of saffron, which we have rehydrating and imparting its essence in an ounce or two of stock.

We have about 1/3 of a pound of Spanish/Portuguese-style Chorizo/Chourico sausage here. If you can’t find a Chorizo, a smoked Kielbasa or a Louisiana-style Andouille or a Texas Hot Link would work well. Chorizo differs from most of these other sausages in that it has a lot of smoked paprika in it, so you will want to add a teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika (sometimes called pimenton de la vera) to your paella if you aren’t using actual Chorizo.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below to learn how to make a real Newark-style Paella.

You’ll need fresh chicken stock to cook the rice in. For 3 cups of medium grain rice you want about 4 cups of liquid. Since we are also using seafood in the dish, which renders liquid itself, I would shave off a bit of the stock, say 1/2 of a cup, so about 3 and 1/2 cups of stock.

Get out your big cast iron enamel crockpot, if you’ve got one. Start browning up 3 nice chicken legs. If you don’t want to have seafood, you can also use a whole cut up chicken, with legs and thighs and breasts on the bone.

A great Puerto Rican variation (which I learned from Daisy Martinez) is to fry up some Sofrito in Achiote oil (which is Achiote seeds toasted up in Olive Oil to color the oil red, with the seeds then removed, or Achiote paste fried up in olive oil. You can get the Achiote Paste or Achiote seeds in Latino supermarkets. Sometimes it’s called Annato as opposed to Achitote) then brown the chicken parts in it, remove the chicken then add the rice.

If you go this route, you won’t need the much more expensive Saffron, because it has a very similar flavor (although its kind of nuttier) and imparts the yellowish/red color to the rice on its own. Alternatively is to just do the Sofrito and fry it up in the chicken/sausage fat and go with the Saffron added to the stock for a Dominican/Nuevo Latino style. Sofrito is great for Paella because it adds that extra Garlic/Herbal/Onion savory flavor. I would defnitely opt to make your own Sofrito as opposed to buying the bottled stuff Goya makes, because its a much fresher flavor. It can be frozen into cubes with a ice cube tray and you can add it to soups, stews, tomato sauces, marinades, to give a dish that extra zip.

When the chicken starts browning up nice, throw in the sausage to brown it up and render out the fat.

Reseve the chicken and sausage to a plate to put back in the Paella later.

Pour in your 3 cups of rice to the rendered fat, and fry it up, stirring to coat all the grains.

Toss in a few tablespoons of Alcaparrado, which is cocktail olives (pitted or unpitted) with capers and pimentos. You can find this in the supermarket in the Latino section or at a Bodega. Continue to stir the rice to coat evenly with the oil.

Once the rice has gotten to sort of a chalky consistency after a few minutes of stirring in the hot oil/rendered grease, add the saffron and your chicken stock, bring it to a boil. Add the the chicken and the sausage back into the pot. Cook covered reduced to low heat for 10 minutes.

While your paella is cooking, blanch up some broccoli and then saute it up with some garlic and olive oil, with some salt and pepper added for taste. I also like to saute up some mushrooms with garlic and olive oil as well to go with the broccoli as a side dish for the Paella.

After the rice has cooked for 10 minutes, add 2lbs of seafood (Shrimps, Scallops, Mussels, Clams) along with the pimento strips. Cook for another 5-8 minutes covered. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, you might want to throw in some frozen baby peas.

You should now be rewarded with a perfect Paella, with perfectly cooked seafood. At this point you want to taste it for saltiness and ground in some black pepper and / or smoked paprika.

Paella, plated with sauteed garlic and oil Broccoli and Mushrooms.

Sumol is my beverage of choice with Iberian food. Of course you might want to go with a nice Manzanilla sherry or a white Port too.

5 Responses to Ironbound at Home

  1. MJP says:

    Nice. I’ve wanted to make a paella for my girlfriend now that we’ve discovered the wonderfully inexpensive seafood at Han Ah Reum. Is there a certain amount of seafood I should use to replace the chicken if I wanted to do just a 100% seafood paella?

  2. No, just use whatever you want. Paella Valenciana usually has chicken and lobster and sausage and clams and mussels, but “Arroz con Mariscos” or “Paella Mariscada” is just all seafood. By all means go to Han Ah Reum, throw in some blue crabs, clams, mussels, cockles, whatever is fresh. 2lbs of seafood or 3lbs is fine, if you want more seafood to rice ratio.

  3. Don’t leave out the sausage though. Its essential in my opinion.

  4. You recommended a medium grain rice – have you tried it with a short grain like arborio? I think in a recent issue of Cook’s I saw an Arroz con Pollo recipe that recommended arborio, and I was going to give that a shot.

    I love the wonderful color you can impart from frying up achiote paste in oil – great tip!

  5. You can certainly use any kind of rice you want, we’ve even used long grain Basmati rice to make Paella. A short grain Carnarolli or Arborio would work well too, but you’ll need to adjust your liquids a bit. In Newark they use regular medium-grain rice, in Spain they use their own domestic rice varietals like Bomba or Calasparra.

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