Like I’ve said before, a strongly flavored stock is key to a good paella. For this one, I chose to go very porky and made a strong pork and garlic stock, accentuated with orange and saffron. Really, I just had pork on my mind and so it was bound to show up somewhere. With a strong porky backbone, I decided to let spring-time produce (asparagus, peas, Swiss chard) shine. Since I was smitten with this general flavor combo in the past, I thought I’d revisit it in paella form.
The flavor was incredibly rich and both the pork stock and smoked ham gave the rice an unctuous quality. In contrast, the more sharply and brightly flavored, crisp asparagus, peas, and swiss chard gave a wonderfully fuller flavor profile that kept this feeling light and springy, all topped with a sprinkling of orange zest for a touch more brightness. I would consider adding a touch of orange or lemon juice in the future to add a bit more acidity, but its a minor thing.
- 6.25 cup chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 carrot
- ~1 lb pork hocks
- 1-2 tsp orange zest
- pinch of saffron
- 1 leek
- small handful of swiss chard stalks
- ~16 stalks asparagus
- ~1.5 cups peas
- ~1.5 lbs hickory smoked ham
- 3 cups short grain rice (valencia or arborio)
- Optional: ~1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
Begin by preparing the stock. Simply put all of the stock components in a pot (home-made chicken stock is obviously superior, but no worries if you don’t have it since you’re clearly improving on it in a big way). Raise to a boil and then drop to a low simmer for an hour.
Skim off any fat/scum that bubbles to the top, strain out and discard the solids (but do pick off any bits of meat from the hocks to go back in the dish later), and hang on to your stock for now (keep it warm when you start cooking).
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Finely dice the pale part of the leek and chop the stalks of Swiss chard into bite-sized pieces (reserve the leaves for another dish).
Heat up your paella pan, warm up some olive oil, and sauté the leek and stalks for roughly 5-7 minutes.
While that goes on, chop the ham into bite-sized pieces and add it to the pan for an addiional 2 minutes of cook time.
Finally, add the rice to the pan and toss it well to coat with oil and the like. After a minute, add the pork stock and quickly heat to a boil, maintaining am active simmer for about 5 minutes. If you’re using any, I like to add a bit of thickener (and richness) in the form of parmesan cheese, so now is the time to grate it in.
Now, before this goes in the oven, quickly decorate the dish with an attractive arrangement of asparagus and peas, topped off with a good pinch of orange zest.
Transfer to the oven for 15 minutes, after which, you should remove it. Cover the pan tightly with foil to allow it 5-10 minutes of steaming before you serve.