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Paella with Rabbit and Artichokes

Updated February 23, 2016
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This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Rabbit, with its delicious and tender meat, is commonly found in paellas. The artichokes and red peppers help weave an earthiness into the dish. To heighten that note, sauté the rabbit’s liver with the meat and then pound it in a mortar with some almonds, and stir it into the paella when adding the rice.

To Grate Tomatoes:. Simply cut the tomato in half crosswise, and run a finger through the seed cavity, scraping most of the seeds out. Then, cupping the tomato in your hand, slowly grate on a box grater. The skin will gradually peel back as the flesh is grated away, leaving only a flattened skin in your palm. (Discard the skin.) This technique doesn’t waste precious pulp. In winter when good, flavorful fresh tomatoes are hard to find, canned whole tomatoes can be used. Strain them, reserving the liquid (to add later to the cooking sofrito), and finely chop.

Saffron Threads Preparation: Saffron is a defining element of paella. It brings its characteristic warm and fresh aroma, and, significantly, tints the rice a delicate golden color. It is the world’s most expensive spice. Cultivation is a delicate process, collecting is difficult, and it takes some 70,000 flowers to yield a pound of saffron. Introduced into Spain around A.D. 900 by Arab traders, it was cultivated in Spain by A.D. 960. (The Spanish word for saffron, azafrán, comes from the Arabic za’faran.) Saffron is largely grown in the central La Mancha region, whose extreme conditions-hot summers, cold winters-are ideal for giving strength to the color and pungency to the aroma. La Mancha is a registered denominación de origen; look for the “D.O. Azafrán de la Mancha” label. Buy only threads and not powder, which may have been adulterated.

To draw out saffron’s full culinary potential, the threads need to be slightly toasted and crumbled before they are added to a rice dish. Toast the threads in a small dry skillet over low heat for a few minutes until they turn a shade darker. Remove them immediately, and then either crumble them in a small piece of paper or pound them in a mortar. If using a mortar, be sure to swirl a bit of water around inside after pounding to get every last bit of saffron dust.

Most restaurants, and many home cooks, use a powdered colorante (usually a mix of cornstarch, salt, and yellow dye) to give their paella the dish’s characteristic golden color. Though eschewed by purists, colorante does not carry a heavy stigma in Spain and its use is not generally looked down upon around most tables. Colorante gives the rice an artificially bright yellow tone. Do not try to make a paella yellower by simply adding more saffron. Too much saffron can give the rice a bitter, almost medicinal flavor. Two pinches of good-quality threads-20 to 30 total-is enough for a paella for 6.

Serves6

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timeunder 2 hours

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, lactose-free, low cholesterol, low saturated fat, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Mealdinner

Moodfestive

Taste and Texturemeaty, savory

Ingredients

  • 1 whole rabbit (about 2 pounds), cut into about 12 pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
  • 6 medium artichokes (about 2 pounds), trimmed, tough parts of leaves removed, cut into eighths, and choke scraped out
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch-square pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped or coarsely grated (see Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet pimenton
  • 8 cups Chicken Stock
  • 2 pinches saffron threads (about 20 total), lightly toasted and ground (see Notes)
  • 3 cups short or medium grain rice

Instructions

Season the rabbit generously with salt and pepper. In a 16-to 18-inch paella pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the rabbit and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large platter.

Prepare the sofrito in the same pan. Add the artichokes and bell pepper and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and 2 pinches of salt and cook, stirring from time to time, over medium-low heat until the tomato begins to darken, about 5 minutes.

Return the rabbit to the paella pan along with any juices from the platter, and cook, stirring from time to time, until the sofrito is pasty, about 5 minutes.

When the sofrito is ready, sprinkle in the pimentón, letting the flavors meld for a few seconds while stirring constantly. Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle in the saffron. Taste for salt and adjust the seasoning as needed. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Sprinkle in the rice. With a wooden spoon probe the pan to make sure the rice is evenly distributed. Do not stir again. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes over high heat.

Reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 8 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al punto, with just a bite to it.

Remove the paella from the heat, cover with paper towels, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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