Paella is a classic, flavorful rice dish from Spain. Originating in the rice-growing area of Valencia, it started out as a dish cooked in the fields by workers over an open fire. Now, you will find this dish prepared in restaurants and homes all over Spain. This is a great one dish main course to prepare when you are entertaining. It is often prepared at festivals and private parties in paellera pans that can be as large as 15 feet across for hundreds of people. If you need a recipe for 140 people, visit my friend Chica Andaluza. I’m going to share a recipe for a small dinner party of 4 to 6 people.
Is there a time-honored recipe that everyone follows…no. I think that there are as many ways of preparing this recipe as there are for preparing your favorite pasta dish. It is all about what is fresh and available. The one constant is the rice…Spanish short grain rice that absorbs about three times its’ volume in liquid without becoming mushy.
Another constant is a flavorful stock to cook the rice. It can be chicken based, seafood based, or vegetable based but usually has a pinch of saffron for flavor and color. If you live in an area where saffron isn’t available or you don’t want to pay the price, you can use a pinch of turmeric or a Spanish product such as Sazon Goya con Azafran.
Cleaning the seafood, browning the meat, making a stock, and preparing the sofrito can be done early in the day. An hour or so before your guests arrive you can assemble the dish and then finish it in the oven or on an outdoor grill while you and your guests enjoy a glass of sangria. Served family style right out of the pan makes for easy entertaining.
Paella Mixta (Paella With Chicken, Chorizo and Seafood)
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 whole chicken, cut up or your favorite parts
- 1 lb. jumbo shrimp (prawns), peeled, deveined and shells retained
- 12 dozen small clams, scrubbed and purged
- 2 links Spanish chorizo (approx. 8 oz.)
- 4 c. water
- 2 c. clam juice
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. dried thyme or 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 14.5 oz. can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1/2 c. white wine
- 2 c. Spanish short grained rice
- 1 c. frozen baby peas
Stock: Bring the 4 cups of water, the clam juice and the reserved shrimp shells to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes, skimming if necessary. Remove the shrimp shells and add the saffron, paprika, salt, pepper and thyme. Add the cleaned shrimp and poach for 1 minute. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Keep stock warm.
Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel (do not use nonstick) ovenproof skillet or paella pan. Add chicken and brown lightly 10 to 15 minutes. Remove chicken, set aside. Add sausage, sauté for about 2 minutes. Remove and when cool enjoy to handle cut into 1 inch pieces and set aside.
Make the sofrito by adding the chopped onion to the pan and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until soft. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Add the tomatoes and let cook until the mixture thickens about 10 minutes. Add the peppers and simmer for five minutes.
The recipe can be made ahead of time up to this point and refrigerated. If not, continue with the paella.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. This dish can also be cooked on a grill outdoors with one zone on medium low and one zone on medium high. Start on the low side and finish on the high side. A few wood chips added to a smoke box will give the paella that authentic taste of cooking over an open wood fire.
Add the rice to the sofrito mixture and stir until all the rice is coated. Stir in the stock, and heat to boiling. Add the chicken and the sausage, and place the pan in the oven on the bottom rack. Bake loosely covered with foil for 20 minutes. Push the shrimp into the rice and add the clams hinged side down. Do not stir the rice. Sprinkle with peas, and bake partially covered until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender (approx. 5 to 10 minutes). Let stand uncovered 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
I think that you could call paella a one dish wonder. Flavorful, colorful and easily adaptable to your particular tastes and pocketbook. Make this for friends and I think your guests will be very happy.