If you attended my high school and took Spanish for more than one year (as I did), you learned all about Spain. Our teacher conveniently forgot the entire southern part of the western hemisphere, and focused solely on Spain for the remaining three years that I took Spanish. By the time I got to Spanish IV, there wasn’t much else to learn about Spain, so we cooked every week in class. You can imagine about how well that went. A couple dozen teenagers with a hot plate and 50 minutes doesn’t get you much in the way of edible food. But … our teacher made paella for us. It’s the national dish of Spain, dont’cha know. She presented this as a special treat, because saffron is VERY EXPENSIVE. Muy caro, if I recall correctly. It was good, but (of course), Ina’s was better. I went on to minor in Spanish in college, in spite of la loca Sra. Shilha. She also made us sing. It was awkward.
Anyway, I made Ina’s “Easy Lobster Paella” (Barefoot Contessa at Home), and it was incredible. I didn’t tell my guests how VERY EXPENSIVE the saffron was, maybe because they bought it for me at a bulk food store in Wisconsin. Also, I didn’t use lobster. Costco had these cute little wild-caught pre-cooked langoustines from Chile, and I brought them home just for this. They were fantastic, and it cut down on the chopping (and the expense) for the dish. I was skeptical at first that the rice would actually cook – it was pretty soupy right up until the end. (The recipe cooks in the oven after the first few steps.) But cook it did, and right on time. Also, I used chicken chorizo (precooked) instead of kielbasa (also from Costco). It was spicy, but good. I cut down on the recommended amount because we had eaten some of this chorizo the night before in a different dish, and it was pretty powerful stuff. I didn’t want to overpower anyone. Well, it turns out that the rest of the flavors in the paella are mild enough that a little extra chorizo would have been just fine. Next time I’ll use the whole amount. I would not hesitate to use the langoustines again, and I omitted the licorice-flavored booze all together (blech). I forgot to put the lid on the pot for the final steps, which I should have done, because the shellfish and the peas were nearly frozen when I put them in.
This would be a great meal for company, because it doesn’t take very long to make, it has a nice presentation, it’s all in one dish, it seems fancy, and most of it is done in the oven after the initial steps.