Roasted Vegetable Paella

This paella is made more like risotto than paella and it doesn’t get that nice socarrat that paella does, but nevertheless, it is absolutely delicious. It IS from Ina Garten after all… Roasting vegetable just concentrates and enhances their flavor so much that each little veggie is like a burst of happiness in your mouth. They caramelize and become sweet, and the briny olives and aged Manchego round out all of the flavors into something truly amazing. I made the full recipe for David and I because I knew we would want the leftovers. It was just as tasty leftover.

slightly adapted from: Cooking For Jeffrey
serves: 6

2 pounds bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch-wide strips
2 pounds fennel bulbs, tops and cores removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 pound baby eggplants, unpeeled, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1 large red onion, 3/4 inch-diced
good olive oil
kosher salt + freshly ground pepper
2 cups (3/4 inch diced) yellow onions (2 onions)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
1 pinch to 1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 1/2 cups Spanish paella rice (I like Matiz Valenciano Bomba Rice)
1 (12 ounce jar) roasted red peppers, undrained, such as Mancini or Delallo
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (not regular! smoked paprika is essential here. I like Penzey’s Smoked Spanish Paprika)
5-6 cups simmering chicken (or vegetable) stock
3 ounces freshly grated aged Manchego cheese
1/2 cup pitted Manzanilla or Cerignola olives, halved
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts

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Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Position two racks evenly spaced in the oven.

Put the bell peppers, fennel, eggplants, and red onion in a large bowl, add 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper, and toss. Divide the vegetables between two baking sheets and spread in one layer. Roast for 45 minutes or so, tossing occasionally and switching the pans on the racks once.

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Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a 14- to 16- inch paella pan or large (11 inch) Dutch oven. Add the yellow onions and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and saffron and cook for one minute. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the rice with oil. Place the jarred peppers (including their liquid) and smoked paprika in the bowl of a food processor and process until pureed (it’s such a pretty red color!). Pour the mixture into the paella pan, stirring to combine, and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of the hot stock (a large ladle comes in handy here) and 2 teaspoons salt and cook uncovered over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, as you would cook risotto. Continue to cook the rice over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring in 1 cup of the hot stock at a time whenever the liquid is absorbed, until the rice is al dente.

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Add the vegetables to the paella, add one more cup of stock, and stir carefully. If the paella is dry, add more hot stock. Off the heat, stir in the Manchego cheese, olives, and scallions. Taste for seasonings and serve hot. With wine.

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