Paella and I began our long romance about 25 years ago when my dear friend Cristina, invited me to her house for dinner. It was that night, I was introduced to Paella for the first time through her Cuban family’s delicious recipe. When she opened her door to greet me, it smelled like a toasty warm hug that I can remember to this day.
Paella is one of the oldest and most well-known dishes in the world. It has a beautiful heritage back to farmers in Spain. They would make rice lunches out in the fields with whatever food resources were on hand. It’s hard working roots, make it a beautifully humble dish.
For Paella to be “traditional”, I’ve learned it depends on who you ask! Some say it can have seafood, some say mixed meats only, some say all the above! I’ve learned the many Paella “rules”, stories and variety of recipes are part of it’s charm.
My love for Paella grew to new heights when I visited my oldest daughter while she was studying in Spain. Every restaurant had it on the menu. Each time I dared myself to try something new, a waiter would walk by with a Paella that looked challengingly different than the one I had in the town before. The reason it never got old, is I quickly learned that Paella was not only a pan of fresh ingredients available to the town, it was an artistic canvas for the artist crafting it. Each Paella reflected the heart, resources and creativity of the chef.
I love to cook and I have made Paella many times over the years. When my kids were little they didn’t care for seafood so it became a romantic dinner for two on a Valentine’s day or a date night in. It’s cozy and perfect for a couple but Paella is also a dish of love to be shared with many! Paella has invited me to paint with it many ways depending on the taste preferences of who I’m cooking it for.
After years of making Paella in my iron skillet or dutch oven, I decided a few years ago, it was time for a real Paella pan. I was on the chase for the “Socarrat”, the toasted, crusty, rice bottom technique that can really only be achieved with a real Paella pan, because of it’s shape! So click click on the internet I went. I found a really fun website: www.tienda.com and over enthusiastically placed my order right away!
Fast forward to a giiiiigantic box arriving on my doorstep that my hubby found first. C’mon ladies, you know that feeling when you know you have some explaining to do. My husband and I both giggled at me pulling my new, gigantic Paella pan out of the box! Oops! I did not realize it would be THAT BIG! Of course my intention was to be able to make Paella for company, but the size of this pan took it to Paella Party level! What’s wrong with that?
Nothing makes me happier than having a kitchen full of family and friends and cooking for them! To me, that’s love at its highest level and that’s what makes a house a home.
While I might have thought I didn’t order the right Paella pan at first, I believe the right Paella pan found me!
- Prep Time: 30-45 min.
- Cook Time: 45-60 min
- Total Time: 90 min.
- Yield: 4-6 generously
- Category: Paella, Meat and Seafood Rice Dish
- Method: Stove top, pan
- Cuisine: Spanish
1 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika
2 teaspoons oregano
1 package of trimmed chicken thighs cut into pieces
(I make chicken ahead of time, cut into bite size pieces, set aside to add later)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or enough to cover bottom of pan
2 Spanish chorizo sausages, thickly sliced (you can use ground chorizo too)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Spanish onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 each, red and yellow bell pepper
Bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, keep some for garnish
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups short grain Spanish rice (I like “Matiz Valenciano Paella Rice”. I get it at Whole Foods)
6 cups chicken broth (have extra on hand)
Generous pinch saffron threads
1 dozen clams, scrubbed
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
2 dozen rinsed mussels
Lemon wedges, for serving
PAELLA IS A PATIENT, ROMANTIC PROCESS:
Combine the paprika and oregano in a small bowl. Rub the spice mix all over the chicken and marinate chicken for 1 hour in the refrigerator. I like to have the chicken cooked prior to starting the Paella. When it’s done, I cut into bite size pieces and set it side to add later.
Heat oil in a Paella pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until browned, remove and reserve. If you used ground chorizo, you can leave it in the pan and move to the next step.
In the same pan, make a “sofrito” (sauce) by sauteing the onions, garlic, peppers and parsley. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture/sofrito/sauce caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld.
Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in broth, add saffron threads and simmer for 10-15 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. (Have extra broth on hand to add if rice isn’t as tender as desired…taste test!)
Add chicken and chorizo- mix it into the rice.
Add the clams, mussels and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. You’ll know it’s done when it turns a beautiful orange. The clams and muscles will show you their done when they open.
When everything is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, the seafood looks done, turn the heat up for 40ish seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom. It will smell “nutty” and then it’s perfect. This is when Socarrat happens. “Socarrar,” means to lightly singe and toast. Be careful not to burn! This is the key to mastering Paella. It takes awhile to perfect the technique but think of it as a challenge! Regardless, it will be so delicious and colorful no one will know but you whether you achieved it or not!
Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. During that time, add the parsley and lemon wedges-Presentation is everything! You and your guests will not help but smile at this beautiful gift you are presenting!
Check the size of your Paella pan to determine recipe size.
Keywords: Paella recipe, rice dish, spanish rice, paella, Spanish cuisine, seafood rice, meat and rice, saffron rice,
Making Paella is a fun, patient, romantic process. Having a kitchen full of friends keeping you company and sharing laughs while you make it, is one of life’s best, simple pleasures. If you want to add some love and color to your life, learn to make to Paella! The hues of red from the tomatoes, red peppers and chorizo- coupled with dark black mussels and bright orange shrimp become the adorning accessories nestled perfectly in the beautiful golden backdrop of the yellow rice. Paella is colorful, romantic, fun, gorgeous and delicious. It is a dish that says come on in, I love you!