Paella de la Bodega 

It’s 9pm on a Tuesday, it’s raining and I don’t feel like ordering food. I’d rather cook.  Whole Foods is a good ten blocks from my apartment and Gourmet Garage is closed. The only place open is the corner store and it’s hard to say whether they’ve got what I need to make a decent meal. So I throw on my rain boots and head out, hopeful. Under the overhang is a stand with piles of apples, oranges, onions, and some out-of-season tomatoes. Good enough. Then, onto the starch/condiment/cleaning supply aisle, where I grab a package of Spanish yellow rice, a can of chicken broth and a couple cans of vegetables. Fluorescent lights illuminate the refrigerated shelves, stocked with domestic cheeses, white eggs and Oscar Mayer bacon. You can never go wrong with bacon. I mean, seriously, if the entire meal burns or falls on the floor, a pan of frying bacon will reverse your disappointment. Lastly, I palm a pack of almonds and check out. On my way home, a vision of steaming paella with accents of shellfish looms in the night air. Well, I don’t have any shellfish, but at least dinner no longer looks bleak. 

Bodega Paella
  (serves four)

5 slices bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can corn, strained
1 handful of almonds
1 can black beans, strained
1 pinch cayenne pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 package Spanish yellow rice
1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, grated
1 avocado, sliced
1 lime

In a large saucepan, render the bacon over low heat. Once it’s barely cooked through, remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon onto paper towels. Pour off some of the fat from the pan. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and continue to cook on low heat for ten minutes. Add the garlic and tomato and cook for another ten minutes. This combination is called soffrito and is the base on many Spanish dishes. Add the chicken broth and the rice. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce to a simmer and cover. In a frying pan, combine olive oil, almonds. Cook, moving around until the almonds release an aroma. Add the bacon, corn and black beans and cook over medium heat for ten minutes. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne and set aside. Once the rice has absorbed the chicken broth and is cooked through, remove from heat. Stir the bean mixture into the rice and squeeze half a lime over the pot. Add the cheese.  Season with salt and pepper. Stir. Serve in bowls, garnished with sliced avocado.    


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