What I Learned about Cooking Paella

IMG_2632A while back I did a Chicken Paella in Pictures post and figured I was way past due to actually post the recipe!

This is a chicken paella recipe which is a variation on the traditional Valencia Paella which has Shrimp, Clams, Mussels and Chorizo.  You can feel free to add all those things to this recipe, do so nearing the end of cooking just before all the liquid has evaporated. Shrimp in particular doesn’t need much cooking.  If you decide you want to go this route I’d use bite size pieces of chicken thigh instead of the bone in pieces the recipe calls for.

Over the last couple of months I’ve read many, many, many things about Paella.  Instead of being clarifying it’s kind of confusing as so much of the information is contradictory.

For example: Jeff Koehler who wrote Spain  (which I own) and La Paella says: Do NOT add onions to Paella (page 136 of Spain) yet almost every recipe I see calls for, yep you guessed it onions. Most notably Simone and Iness Ortega who wrote the “joy of cooking of Spain” 1080 Recipes.  Which not only calls for onions the recipe also calls for Long Grain Rice!  Can you imagine? Indeed both the traditional Paella rice, Bomba and Valencia are both short grain.

1080 recipes was originally published in 1972 in Spain for home cooks. In keeping with the time and the idea that they wanted home cooks to be able to make satisfying renditions of traditional dishes at home they have made some suggestions which may horrify a purest, like: using bullion cubes to make your stock and to finish your long grain rice paella in the oven.

The other thing every one goes on about when discussing Paella is the socarrat, the crunchy layer of rice at the bottom of the pan.  Or as I like to call it: the burnt bits.  As I have found it impossible to get the rice to cook on a stove top with out the bottom getting a little too socarrat for my liking.  Tho the Paella never tastes burnt and my guest all eat this bottom crust with gusto.  But it does make me think that the Ortega’s know a thing or two about how to make this traditional dish in a non traditional location, namely your kitchen.  Paella is often made over a special burner or the burning embers of an open fire making me think that maybe finishing it off in the oven isn’t a bad idea.

Finally it is said again and again, Paella is a rice dish not a bunch of stuff on rice, a rice dish, got it?

I don’t make a traditional Paella by a long, shot, but I do make a tasty one and the joy of making Paella is that, as I see it, there is a lot of leeway.

This recipe is to be made in a 14″ Paella Pan.  Good luck!

Chicken and Sausage Paella

In a medium pot bring to a simmer 5-6 cups of homemade chicken broth.

Put a cast iron skillet on medium heat and add to it a large pinch of good quality Saffron. Cook the Saffron for a minute or so until it has “toasted” or dried then place it in a mortar and pestle and grind it to a powder add the powder the stock, remove from the heat and let it infuse.IMG_2625Generously salt and pepper 8 bone in skin on Chicken Thighs.

Add 1/4 Cup Olive Oil to the Paella pan over medium high heat. Add 6-8 Garlic Cloves, cooks for about 2 minutes then add the chicken and brown well about 6 minutes per side.IMG_2619Admittedly I fail the it’s a rice dish rule as you can see I make extra chicken.  Use boneless chicken thighs if you like, just reduce the cooking time.

Remove the chicken and garlic from the pan.  If need be, add a little more oil and then another 4-6 Garlic Cloves and 4 Merguez Sausages cook over medium high heat until nicely browned (8-10 minutes) when done remove from pan and let cool on a cutting board.  When at room temp cut into bite size pieces.  IMG_2611Add to the pan the Artichokes from one 14 ounce can that have been well-drained and patted dry.  Fry until nicely brown, always feel free to add more oil when ever you feel the need.  IMG_2614Remove the cooked artichokes to a bowl and add to the pan 1 large julienned Red Pepper and a hand full of trimmed Green Beans (I leave them whole, but they could easy be cut into 2″ pieces)IMG_2607Sauté for about 5 minutes, remove from heat and add to the artichokes.IMG_2616Cut in half 1 large Onion and 1 Large Tomato. Use a box grater and grate the flat side until you are left with the “skins”IMG_2621IMG_2617Add more oil to the frying pan, heat over medium for a minute and then add the onions and cook until starting to get golden – 12 minutes give or take.IMG_2623Then add the grated tomato and 4 more Garlic Cloves and a generous pinch of Salt turn the heat to medium and let the sofrito cook down,  the longer it cooks the more intense the flavor, 20-25 minutes. It should go from looking like this:IMG_2624to something like this:IMG_2626Add 1 teaspoon of Sweet Spanish Paprika stir, cook 1 more minute then add 1 1/2 cups short or medium grain Rice. Stirring over medium heat for several minutes. IMG_2628Now add enough stock to cover the rice 4-5 cups, stir to distribute the rice evenly, you may have extra which you may need later if the stock has evaporated but the rice is not fully cooked, in theory this should take 20 minutes and the big cardinal rule from here on in is DON’T STIR IT!

Bring the stock to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

When the broth has reduced to the rice line (about 10 minutes in) re-introduce all the cooked garlic the cut up sausage, chicken, green beans, red pepper and artichoke.

When the rice is almost perfectly cooked, take it off the heat cover with tin foil and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. IMG_2630When ready to serve sprinkle with roughy chopped Parsley.

I find straddling the pan over two burners helps as does turning and moving it around through out the process.  Next time I make this I am going to try and finish it off in the oven after about 10 minutes on the stove.  1080 recipes suggests 25 minutes….

I love Paella and think it’s the perfect dinner party food because really all you need to do is make a green salad and place the pan in the middle of the table and dig in.

There are so many variations to try: rabbit instead of chicken, Chorizo instead of Merguez, Shellfish, Squid Ink, Vegetarian I’d even like to try a brown rice or heaven forbid long grain rice variation.

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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