Somehow, adulting* is taking all of my time these days. There seems to be something to do every night. Ballet. Yoga sculpt. Barre. Dance Cardio. Tap. French conversation group. Coffee dates with best friends. Museum dates with mom. Doctors appointments. Lots of doctor’s appointments. Being responsible and doing things like paying bills and negotiating better rates. Fitting in a day job.
*adulting: the tasks and duties of being a grown-up.
These days, there’s not always a whole lot of time to cook special dinners every night. Pasta and jarred sauce or boxed mac & cheese aren’t meals that I should keep as fixtures on my dinner rotation and lunches out add up pretty quickly. So what’s a girl on a budget with high food standards and a crazy schedule to do?
Hint, the answer isn’t decide chocolate is a food group and eat it for dinner. (I keep trying to make it happen, but I fear that its fate is the same as “fetch”…never going to happen).
Answer: Maximize cooking productivity
It takes almost the same amount of time to cook a 2 serving batch of a dish like this as it does to cook a 6 serving batch. (It can also be a help for budget cooking – you aren’t wasting half used bunches of herbs). I’m not saying go all once a month cooking crazy (there’s not enough room in a shared apartment freezer for that to be possible), just make a couple extra servings.
Big batch cooking takes the pressure off of busy week nights and even frees you up for impromptu plans because you have backup meals in the freezer. (As a single lady, a big batch of meals to me is a normal-sized batch for a family).
The worst part of big batch cooking is if you eat the same dish for lunch and dinner 3 days in a row. If you can pay attention to your meal inventory, you can make sure that you never run out of options in the freezer and could have 2 or 3 different dishes tucked away at any one time.
One of the meals I keep coming back to (I probably make a big batch every 6 weeks) is a chicken & chorizo paella that I have adapted from Save with Jamie. Now, all that’s “paella” about it is the method and possibly the pan, but it is still darn delicious. The chorizo and paprika give a spicy depth to the dish while the peppers and carrots round out the flavors with a little inherent sweetness. Parsley and a squeeze of lemon brighten the dish.
The dish is pretty fluid and adaptable. Don’t have carrots? Add more peppers. Only 2 chicken thighs? I hear shrimp is good (it isn’t in my version of this dish due to my shellfish allergy).Want more veggies? Double the peas or serve it on a bed of a spicy green like arugula. No arborio rice? Short grain brown rice can be used as well. No parsley? Use chives or scallions in place of the stalks and skip the leaves.
I could even see experimenting with different flavor profiles within the framework of this dish. You could easily swap out the chorizo for a different kind of fresh/uncooked sausage (the new Whole Foods in my neighborhood has a variety of fresh sausages) and changing the seasoning and veggies to match.
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 large carrot or a handful of baby carrots
- 15 g f(4-5 stalks worth) fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 70 g (2.5 ounces) raw chorizo (or 1/4 of a package of Mexican chorizo
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about a pound or 450 grams)
- olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- 3 1/4 cups (750 ml) water
- 1 large red bell pepper or sweet red pepper. You can also use 6-8 mini sweet peppers
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste*
- 1 cube chicken stock
- 300 g (1 1/2 cups) arborio rice
- 100 g frozen peas (optional)
- 1 lemon
- Prepare a mise en place (Gather up and measure out each ingredient, set up your cutting board, knives and pans).
- Peel and mince the garlic. Next, peel and roughly chop the onion and carrot.
- Remove the leaves from the parsley and set aside. Finely chop the parsley stalks.
- Roughly chop the chorizo (you still need to break up the chorizo a little bit if it is the raw mexican kind so that it disperses evenly into the dish) and chicken thighs.
- Put a lug of oil into a large lidded shallow casserole or paella pan on a medium heat. Now, add in the garlic, onion, carrot, parsley stalks, chorizo, chicken and paprika. Cook all this for around 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- In a tea kettle or pot over high heat, boil your water.
- While it is cooking, deseed and chop the pepper, then add to the pan and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste and crumble in the stock cube over everything.
- Then add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes -this will help all those flavors permeate the rice.
- Pour in your boiling water and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Pop the lid on and cook until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat so your liquid is at a simmer for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. (If it looks like it is about to dry up before the rice is cooked, you can add a splash more water.
- If you like peas (or happen to have some hanging out in the freezer from the last time you made mushy peas and need a reason to use them), stir them through (from frozen is fine). Cook for about 5 minutes more – you just want ever
- Season to perfection, then chop the parsley leaves, scatter them over the paella, and serve with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing over.