If you’ve been following the European Championship,  you  already know that the soccer semi-finals start this Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. with an all-Iberian match-up between Portugal and Spain.

    It’s the perfect excuse to break out your red-handled paella pan and whip up Spain’s favorite, one-dish feast.  It’s actually quite an easy dish to pull off, especially if you’ve already got your pantry stocked with the main ingredients: short-grain rice and saffron, red peppers and chicken stock.

Here’s a recipe from Sonoma County’s own paella king, Gerard Nebesky, whose paella is so authentic that he won the Food Network’s “Throwdown with  Bobby Flay. ”  Nebesky cooks paella at the Occidental Farmers Market on Friday nights, and you can find him at the Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg on July 17, July 31 and Aug. 21.  

   Gerard’s Paella Mixta
    Makes 8 to 10 servings
    1 cup olive oil
    2-3 heads of garlic, with cloves detached but not skinned
    6 red peppers or piquillo peppers, cored, seeded and sliced
    5-6 pounds of chicken, preferably legs and thighs with bone in
    4 yellow onions, chopped
    2 16-ounce cans diced tomatoes
    6 to 7 1/2 cups chicken stock, homemade or canned
    20 to 25 threads of saffron, crushed
    2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
    4 to 5 cups uncooked Valencian short-grain rice
    2 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans
    1 pound green beans, slender asparagus or baby artichoke hearts
    20 to 24 jumbo shrimp (16/20 count)
    20 to 24 Manila clams and/or New Zealand Green Lip mussels
    4 to 5 lemons, cut into wedges, for garnish
    Heat the paella pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and garlic and fry the peppers. (Add more peppers if you want to serve some as an appetizer.) Remove peppers and set aside.
    Add chicken parts to the pan, turning to sear all sides. When chicken is golden, add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the tomatoes and the stock and reduce the sofrito base down for about a half hour. Meanwhile, crush the saffron with the smoked paprika in a mortar and pestle and add it to the stock.
    After a half hour, stir in the rice and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Important: Do not stir or cover the rice. As the rice cooks, add the vegetables and the garbanzo beans.
    During the final 10 minutes, poke the shrimp and shellfish into the rice mixture so that they will cook.
    You will know the dish is done when you can smell the smoky odor of the rice caramelizing on the bottom of the pan, and all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Finish with squirts of lemon and leave lemon wedges in the paella pan or perched along the rim. 


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