Southwestern Barbecue Paella

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The labor of love will be well worth it when you sit down at the table. If it looks too daunting, make the rice base and add whatever seafood, poultry, or meat components you like. Or invite friends over and make it a group effort. Many of the elements can be prepared ahead, so make a timetable and start grilling.

  • Corn
    • 1 ear corn in the husk
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 teaspoon chile powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Mushrooms
    • 2 portobello mushrooms
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 chorizo sausage link
  • Cactus Pads
    • 4 prickly pear cactus pads (nopales) or 4 (3 x 1/2-inch) slices zucchini
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Rice Base
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
    • 1 cup diced tomatoes
    • 1 cup bulk chorizo sausage
    • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
    • 4 jumbo shrimp (15 per pound), peeled and deveined
    • 1 1/2 cups texmati rice
    • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock, heated to a simmer
    • 1 cup cooked black beans
    • 1 cup green peas
    • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 Green Lip mussels
  • 4 littleneck clams
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • Barbecued beef short ribs
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled, and diced
  • 2 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled, and diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Do Ahead: The link chorizo, mushrooms, peppers, and chiles can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated. The marinade for the chicken and the sauce for the ribs can be made up to 2 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

Prepare a barbecue grill.

For the corn: Pull back the layers of the husk on the corn and remove the silk. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, chile powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Rub the kernels with the butter mixture and fold the husk back around the corn. Tie at the top with kitchen string. Soak the corn in cold water for about 8 minutes so that it doesn’t burn when grilled. Remove from the water, pat dry, and cook over hot coals turning often, until done, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Shuck and cut in half lengthwise; then cut in half crosswise into quarters.

For the mushrooms: Cut the stems off the mushrooms and remove the gills on the underside by gently scraping with the edge of a small knife. Rub the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place, top side down, on the hot grill. Cook for a few minutes and turn over; cook for 2 minutes more and turn over again. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until the mushrooms soften and they begin to seep liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat ands sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Let cool and cut into fourths.

For the chorizo sausage link: Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the sausage link, reduce the heat, and simmer until the sausage is firm, about 15 minutes. Grill the sausage until crispy, turning frequently so it cooks evenly without being burnt, about 10 minutes. Cool and slice into 4 diagonal pieces.

For the cactus pads: Trim around the outside edge of the cactus pads with a small knife, then gently slide the knife flat across each side of the pads to remove spines. Rub the cleaned pads (or zucchini) with the olive oil and cook on the hot grill for 3 minutes on each side (they should be softened but still slightly crunchy). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For rice base: Heat the olive oil in a paella pan, casuela, or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minuets. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they dissolve into the onions and garlic, about 10 minutes more. Add the bulk chorizo and cook 2 minutes; add the saffron and stir well. Scrape ingredients aside to make room on the bottom of the pan for shrimp; cook the shrimp 1 minute, turn over and cook for another minute. Stir the shrimp into the other ingredients in the pan and cook an additional minute. Remove the shrimp and set aside (they should be about three-fourths cooked). Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the hot stock and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer. Stir the rice every 5 minutes, adding more stock a little at a time until it is absorbed, until the rice is thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes from the time it begins to simmer. Add the black beans, peas, and cilantro. Stir well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the reserved shrimp, corn, portobellos, cactus pads (or zucchini), chorizo slices, mussels, and clams as desired over the rice, leaving enough room for the chicken and ribs. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat until the clams and mussels open up and all ingredients are hot, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the hot chicken and ribs from the barbecue grill and add to the paella. Scatter the red bell pepper, poblano chiles, and cilantro over all. Bring the paella pan to the table and divide among 4 large plates.

By Lenard Rubin

Cuisine(s): Southwestern

Main ingredient: Rice

Serves(s): 4

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