Contrary to popular belief the word “paella” does not mean the modern seafood and rice dish associated with Spanish cuisine. In the Valencia region, the word “paella” simply meant “pot” and later was used to refer to a large, round shallow pan used to cook rice. The original Valencian paella contained only rice, meat, water snails and butter beans along with a few spices, such as rosemary and saffron. The more modern invention of seafood paella came about in the mid-19th century along with the mixed-paella, which contained chicken or duck. But no matter what protein you choose to use in your paella, it is delicious and simple to make. You use only one pot, to cook and to serve in, which makes clean up a snap. The best way to cook paella is on the grill, but if it is too cold outside or you simply don’t have one, it can be done on the stove top and in the oven. A large shallow pan is essential to the good paella, but you don’t need a specialty one, any large, heavy bottomed skillet will do as long as it has the capacity for holding the rice in relatively thin layer. It is a little more difficult to achieve the crusty edges and bottom of the rice, without the proper pan and grill, but not impossible, especially if you finish your paella in the oven.
I had to cook dinner this weekend from the contents of my freezer, to make space for a great amount of venison, which I am now the proud owner of. All I had on hand was chicken thighs, chorizo sausage and shrimp, so paella seemed like a good choice for using all of the above in one shot. I am going to call this a mixed-paella, but you can substitute the chicken and sausage with sea food or stick to the classic version and use water snails (good luck finding them). I really do love the chicken in this recipe, as it comes out succulently moist and beautifully golden.
4 chicken thighs – bone in
½ lbs of sausage meat (I like the spicy chorizo)
1 lb of shrimp
3 cups of medium grain rice
6 cups of chicken stock + ½ cup
A handful of butter green beans trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper
1 Jalapeno pepper minced very fine (optional)
1 ½ cups of slow roasted tomatoes (See Note at the end)
1 large yellow onion diced
5 cloves of garlic minced
1 spring of rosemary
2 tsp of saffron
1 tbs of smoked sweet paprika
2 tbs of poultry seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
Handful of minced parsley to garnish
Lemon wedges to serve with the paella.
Preheat the oven to 400F. About an hour before cooking combine the rice, stock and saffron and let the rice soak. Preheat the olive oil on high heat in the paella pan (or a large skillet). Season the chicken with the poultry seasoning and about half of the smoked paprika and place skin down in the pan. Allow the chicken to cook about 6-7 minutes or until the skin is crispy. Turn the chicken over, reduce the heat to medium and add the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks
Cook the sausage and the chicken for a few minutes until the sausage is mostly cooked through and the chicken is well seared. Reduce the heat to low and add the onions and the garlic. Cook the onions and garlic until softened, about 2-3 minutes, then add the bell pepper and the Jalapeno (if using).
Cook another 5 minutes or until the peppers begin to soften, then add the tomatoes, minced rosemary, the rest of the smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Allow the tomatoes to cook for a minute or two than add the ½ a cup of chicken stock to deglaze the pan. With a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to reduce all the seared pieces; cook until almost all liquid has evaporated (about 3 min). Add the rice, stock and saffron mixture. Spread the rice evenly in the pan so it is all in one thin layer and is fully covered by stock. Cover the pan loosely with foil and transfer to the oven. Cook the paella for 10 minutes than add the shrimp and the butter beans and try to bury them in rice the best you can. If you are using other sea food such as muscles or clams, this would be the time to add them as well. Re-cover the pan with foil and cook for another 10 minutes or until the sea food is done, the stock has evaporated and the rice has developed a crusty edge. You may need to add a little more stock if you feel the rice is becoming too dry before it is done. Avoid the urge to stir it, as it will become mushy and unevenly cooked.
Once the paella is done, garnish with fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
Note: Slow roasted tomatoes are my number one favorite staple. I make these often and store them in the fridge and use them in various recipes. You can use any tomatoes you like but will need to adjust the cooking time based on the size. The recipe below is just meant to give the technique, you can play around with spices, roasting time and temperatures and with what you roast ( I recently slow roasted lemons this way - Delicious!)
2 pints of grape or cherry tomatoes halved and seeded
5 unpeeled cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
3 rosemary springs
1 tbs of kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp of sugar
2 tbs of olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 250F. Spread the tomatoes on the baking sheet covered with foil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar, drizzle with olive oil and toss to cover well. Toss the garlic and rosemary in. Roast uncovered and undisturbed for 2.5 hrs. The tomatoes can be kept covered in the fridge for up to 1 week. You can use them in soups, pastas, sandwiches… possibilities are endless.