I love a lot of fish dishes and this is a mish-mosh of some of my faves making the blog, building off the traditional idea of the Portuguese Paella that I hold oh so dear to my heart this dish was born borrowing my heritage, my tastes, my familiarity with flavors that work together as such.
First, and foremost, this casserole is not the quaint 1960s magazine baking dish where you plaster layers of stuff into a glass vessel for Sunday Church pot-lucks and holds more true to the original meaning of the word casserole. Secondly, for those who only had paella in Spanish-American restaurants, the true dish is about preparation styles and not necessarily the fishes or meats used as some menus would have you believe when you order it stateside. If you really want to do it right, focus on the freshness of the seafood and meats used and not on trying to make something you had out before or ever follow this recipe. Finally, paella is about the pan, casseroles are about the pan, so you need to have the right vessel to cook in… I have a very nice pan that only is used for a select few meals specifically given as a gift to make this recipe, and of which today’s meal was done as a celebration (even though it’s not the original version of what I made that the person bought me the pan to replicate, but that’s another story).
Despite my remark earlier about the dish’s forte being in the freshness of the fish, several trips to several stores over the week did not provide all the preferences I would have hoped. I’m not going to give up the shortcuts, but I highly suggest you look for some fresh fish and match spices to them in a meal like this. It’ll be worth the effort.
This dish I named this way because I could. By strict definition creole is white French (of Canadian decent, usually Acadia, but also via modern Quebec) mixed with Iberian (predominantly Spanish although some Portuguese or, of course, French Iberian) -or- French (any origin) mixed with Carribean Islander (typically Haitian, but which, by traditional creole standard usually being mixed with an Iberian, usually Spanish in general, and originated as a French man with a Carribean woman of “color,” though, after the first generation the distinction becomes lost). White creole is rare form these days even among those who study creole heritage, yet oddly enough, by definition being French Canadian and Portuguese would make me, yes, creole. How’s that for a fun stretch??
The crux of the meal is built on the trinity. A throw to the underlying christian heritage holding the region’s will. Where traditional French cooking depends heavily on the mariquois (sp) the carrot is replaced as an aeromatic in the early steps. The important part of finishing is the high heat on the rice, called ***
little neck clams
blue crab (backfin crab)
black pepper corns
stock (fish, veggie or pork will work, I prefer veggie)
extra large skillet, or paella pan
Char both the peppers under the broiler than sweat the charred skins off and dice the flesh
Dice the onion, garlic, celery
place all in the pan with a bit of oil along with the pepper corns and sweat them out
add the chicken brown the theighs and allow to begin to brown
if you prefer add the sausage and all to brown, but remove before adding rice
add the rice and saute until the kernels become transluscent
add the bourbon and burn it off over a low flame
add the stock and bring it to a simmer
add the bay leaf, paprika, rosemary and correander
allow rice to simmer to 25-30 minutes
add the fish based on cooking times, typically crustacians in their native shells uncracked will take longer than mollosks, and any fish out of its shell (such as gulf shrip or bay scallops) will take the least time
make sure the last bit of liquid is evaporated or absorbed
cover the last fish with tarragon and kale leaves and bring the heat up to high
allow the bottom rice to begin to crisp (***) along the bottom of the pan and bring up some of the smokey charred flavor
serve family style with the casserole
or for single servings, line the bowl with the steamed kale, then, bring up the bottom of the pan in the serving bowl with rice and a balance of the fish and meat