With one week left in Lent, my "forced" vegetarianism is almost over. It seemed like as good a time as any to make a recipe out of a third cookbook, to keep up with my New Year's goal (yes, I'm behind on that goal...I'm still having back issues, which is making it harder to cook).
I've never had paella. It's always associated with shrimp and other things that will kill me, so I've avoided it when going out. I have yet to come across a non-shellfish version of it that looks appealing or doesn't look like a lot of work. Thus, when I came across a vegetarian version in Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, I was intrigued. It looked fairly straight forward and fairly quick to make. Truth to tell, I wanted to order pizza for dinner tonight so these were very good attributes for a recipe. ;)
I made the mushroom variant of the "Paella with Tomatoes" recipe and, based on a suggestion in the book, added 4 eggs to the pan (I wanted to be sure I was getting enough protein). The recipe is straight-forward enough: stock or water, olive oil, rice, onion, garlic, mushrooms, tomato paste, saffron, and smoked paprika. Throw it all together and bake for 15 minutes, and then keep it in the oven for another 15 with the oven off. I was surprised by how soupy the dish was when it went into the oven--I wasn't even sure it would hold the eggs very well. In retrospect, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, as the cooking technique is very similar to how I make my tomato-based chicken and rice dish.
The dish turned out all right. I think I could have cooked it a smidge longer with a little more liquid; the rice came out very slightly underdone. Also, I think it would have been better with butter instead of oil (for a better brown on the bottom). Bittman, in the book, suggests putting the pan over high heat for a few minutes when it comes out of the oven to give it more of the characteristic "crust" on the bottom. I'm not sure how well that would have worked with an electric range, though. Also, to make this dish I used mushroom broth in place of normal vegetable broth. I've found that mushroom broth is a bit more flavorful. If I make this recipe again, I may use vegetable broth and a bit of wine; the mushroom was a bit too earthy when combined with the baby bellas on top.
All in all, I think it was a success, but I think the next time I make "paella," I'm going to try a non-vegetarian version. I think this would have been tastier with chicken broth instead of vegetable broth. This isn't the first time I've found vegetable broth to yield results that have left me wanting a bit more. I make a wicked lentil soup that when made with chicken broth is rich and flavorful, but when made with vegetable broth, falls a bit flat.
Bittman's cookbook is a large tome, I'm going to have to try some other recipes out of it...after I get through the other cookbooks.