I just perfected my recipe over the weekend. We had a celebration dinner for my sister, who just finished up a grueling schedule of straight chemo and chemo/radiation, so I wanted to make something very special for her and those who have helped her get through this. Paella is the perfect dish because it combines both meat and fish. It originated in the fields of a region of Spain called Valencia, which is on the east coast.
When I went tooling around the web way back when I first started to think about putting this together, I found one person who complained about a recipe being nothing more than “rice with stuff in it.” I started thinking about this and determined that it’s a perfect description for Paella. So, frankly, I don’t know what his problem was. It’s also a great description for Jambalaya (which I promise to add very soon, since I have a great recipe in my head for that).
I would recommend you purchase a Paella pan. You could, of course, use a large all-purpose skillet, but a Paella pan is just perfect and can be used for other things…like Jambalaya!
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs. cut in 1-inch pieces
1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz chorizo cut into 1/4-inch slices and peeled
8 oz Serrano ham, diced
1/2 lb squid rings
1/2 lb langostinos (Chilean lobster tails)
20 mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 cup red. yellow and orange bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1.5 cups frozen petite peas, thawed
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
2.5 cups short-grained rice (Valencia preferred)
1/2 cup dry white wine
6-7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 dried bay leaves
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 tbsp smoked paprika
30 strands of saffron threads
2 tbsp minced garlic
Place the saffron threads and 1/4 cup of hot water in a bowl and all it it to sit for about 15-20 minutes to steep. Heat oil in a 15-18″ Paella pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken and shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the chicken, shrimp, ham, squid rings, and chorizo to he pan and cook until brown, remembering to turn occasionally. You don’t want it to burn. Remove the shrimp and squid rings to a plate, leaving the meats in the pan.
Add the paprika, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, chopped peppers and onions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften. This should take about 6 minutes. Add the wine, lemon juice, saffron broth and chicken broth and season with salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
Now, add the rice and distribute it evenly with a spoon. Add peas and return the squid rings to the concoction. Cook without stirring until the rice has absorbed a good portion of the liquid. This should take about 12 minutes. Your Paella pan will definitely be bigger than the burner, so it’s important that you turn the pan every couple of minutes to ensure that the rice cooks evenly. Do not worry if the rice “burns” a bit on the bottom. This is perfect. It’s one of the important things that happens with Paella. Adds to the incredible flavor.
Turn the heat down to “low” and add the reserved shrimp. Give the concoction one stir. Nestle the mussels into the liquid (hinge side down). Allow it to cook without stirring until the mussels have opened, the liquid is absorbed, and the rice is al dente. This should take about 5-10 minutes more.
Remove the pan from the burner and cover with aluminum foil. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. This is crazy good stuff.