Sunday, March 6, 2016

Rock and Roll Paella from guest Clea Simon

Please join us in welcoming our multi-talented and prolific guest author Clea Simon (and feline accomplice Musetta) for this recipe that has us drooling.

This is Musetta, not Clea

Rock and Roll Paella, from Clea Simon

Thirty years and two cats ago, I wrote my first recipe. I was not, as I am now, a mystery writer. Nor was I, as I have been at various points over a long (and somewhat checkered) career, a food journalist. What I was, at that point, was a freelance rock critic – an aspiring “scenester” looking to find my place in my post-college tribe of musicians, managers, fans, and assorted late-night-club denizens who called the Boston club scene home.

But when one of my colleagues decided to put together a “Rock and Roll Cookbook,” I was enthralled. Despite a diet that largely consisted of ramen and beer, I loved to cook. I’m not saying I was good at it, but I was trying, regaling friends with one-pot dinners of chicken stew and pasta and, on one memorable occasion, an absolutely inedible Thai curry (that’s when I learned the difference between coconut milk and coconut cream).

My contribution was something I called “Paella with Cat.” Not that I cooked with the cat, but because my then-feline, Cyrus, had a taste for human food, and anything made with chicken – not to mention shrimp – would have him underfoot and begging. Basically, it’s a simple take on a New York Times recipe – some hot sausage and saffron, shrimp and clams. Step two, though, was my own: “Remove visible fat from chicken. Feed to small cat.”

It’s probably no accident that once I started writing mysteries, both cats and rock and roll played prominent roles. The music is in the background of the books, these days, but “cats and crime and rock and roll” is still my catchphrase, at least for those first few Theda Krakow mysteries.

These days, I still make a version of this paella, as well, although my current feline, Musetta, has nothing but disdain for the human-food leavings that drove Cyrus wild. I’ve upgraded the recipe over the years: instead of water, I use a mix of clam juice, wine, and chicken broth. I like to use Arborio, or some other short-grain rice (bomba, if I can get it), for a proper, crispy socarrat, and I add some hot smoked paprika for zing. But I still blast the music while I’m cooking – Sleater-Kinney or maybe some vintage Bowie. Because that’s what makes it all good.

Revised Paella with Cat

Olive oil
Two links chourico or other smoky, hot sausage
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 Tablespoon roasted chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup white wine
1 cup clam juice
1 cup chicken broth
1 roast red pepper (jarred is fine), skin removed
a dozen littleneck clams
4 chicken thighs
1/2 lb of shrimp, peeled, deveined
salt/pepper to taste (start with 1 teaspoon salt

   and a healthy grind of pepper)

1. Put saffron up to steep in the wine

2. In olive oil, sauté the sausage until it releases its fat

3. In the fat and olive oil, brown the chicken. Remove the chicken after it has browned to make room in the pan.

4. Add the onion and garlic to the fat and sausage and sauté until translucent. Add bay, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper, and rice and let everything toast for a while

5. Add the chicken back, and then the liquids, including the wine/saffron mix.

6. Bring to a simmer. Let simmer 5 to 10 minutes

7. Lay clams and shrimp on top, and top with strips of red pepper.

8. Cover and put in hot oven for 15 minutes, until clams have opened and rice has absorbed all the liquid.

9. Taste for salt and pepper. Open a can for the cat. Enjoy.

Hungry, Musetta?

Clea Simon is the Boston Globe-bestselling author of 19 traditional/cozy mysteries in the Theda Krakow, Dulcie Schwartz, and Pru Marlowe pet noir series, most recently Code Grey (Severn House) and When Bunnies Go Bad (Poisoned Pen). This month, her 20th mystery, The Ninth Life (Severn), launched the Blackie and Care series. A former journalist, Clea lives in Massachusetts. Although her books are getting darker, they still always include a cat. She’s not sure why.

Praise for When Bunnies Go Bad:

"Once again Simon’s wacky humor—darkish but surely not black—provides more than enough entertainment."
     -- Booklist

"From the wild humor of the title, to the wry conversations between animal behaviorist Pru Marlowe and her cat Wallis, every chapter of this new mystery is jammed with surprises and suspense."
     -- Kingdom Books

Find Bunnies at Amazon
Praise for The Ninth Life:

"Forget everything you think you know about 'cat mysteries.' The Ninth Life is a dark and gritty story of life on the streets."
     --New York Times­-bestselling author Joe Finder

"Compelling and utterly unique."
     --Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins
        Clark award winner

"A delight for anyone who relishes cat mysteries."
     -- Library Journal

Find it at Amazon

Or pick up a signed copy of either book at Harvard Book Store or Porter Square Books In Cambridge, MA


  1. Fun post Clea and congrats on the new series and book! I think my first real attempt at cooking was spaghetti sauce. It's definitely evolved over the years:)

  2. Welcome to Mystery Lovers Kitchen, Clea. I'm a big fan of paella and this recipe sounds terrific. It's amazing what a difference clam juice can make.

  3. This sounds heavenly! And not has hard as I thought it would be! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sounds great.
    I've discovered Better Than Bouillon (which has a lobster version) that I use for anything requiring seafood broth.

    The Killer Bunnies title is a hoot!

  5. Thanks, folks - and yes, Better Than Bouillon, will work too! I just now always have a bottle of clam juice in my larder. I think they multiply. And, yes, this is an easy recipe - but it does look great coming out of the oven (and tastes great too). Thanks for having me here today!

  6. Oh when I saw Boston and rock n roll I thought Aerosmith. Did you have the pleasure to meet them. Although back then who knows if it was a pleasure. great recipe

  7. I did meet them at one point - they were already pretty huge stars by my time, but it was some kind of record label party. Steve Tyler told me liked my hat!