I’ll tell you what. If ever I’m asked what would I like as my final meal, Paella will definitely be on my mind. It combines a bit of everything I love in the food world: rice, seafood, pork, chicken, saffron, RICE! Ay bendito! It makes my heart quicken.
There isn’t a thing about this dish I don’t love. I love the look of it. I love the taste of it. I love the scent of it. I just love it, seriously. I do. I’m not exaggerating. I made this batch Sunday evening and ate the last bit of it for lunch on Wednesday. The Hubbs and I REALLY enjoyed this and took full advantage of it.
This isn’t an official, traditional, hand-me-down recipe. This is Paella the way I remember my mom making it and the way I’ve tweaked it over the years. I think it took just over an hour to get it all done, but I didn’t really track the time. It isn’t terribly time-consuming, but there are a few layers to take care of before arriving at the final product. Soooo worth it.
Disclaimer: Special thanks to my dear hubby who did all the action shots. The plating shots are mine.
Paella A Mi Manera (my way)
Serves about 8
For the meats:
6 chicken thighs
1/2 lb pork shoulder, approx
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp Spanish paprika
2 tsp garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4-6 plum tomatoes (about 2 cps)
1/2 cp dry sherry or white wine
I prefer using thighs as these will be braised for a bit, but if you are partial to chicken breasts, then use that. These thighs still had the bone and skin attached, this adds a lot of flavor to the cooked meat. You want to use a cut of pork that is well marbled (fatty), again this will be braising for a bit and marbling will prevent it from drying up.
Chop the pork into 1-inch cubes and put them in a medium bowl together with the chicken pieces. Season with the salt, pepper, paprika and garlic, give it a good toss to make sure all the pieces all well coated and set aside while chop the tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and dice into small pieces. Set aside.
You will need a saucepan that is big enough to hold the entire paella; it should also be on the shallow side and have a good fitting lid. Preheat the saucepan over medium-high, add enough oil to just glisten the bottom of the pan. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken pieces-skin side down as well as some of the pork. Brown the chicken and pork on both sides; you will probably have to do this in 2 batches. Make sure the pan is hot enough to sear the meat without drawing too much moisture from it.
Once all the chicken and pork is browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Since you’re browning the chicken with the skin still on, you may have quite a bit of fat left in the pan. Drain some of it, keeping about 2 tbsp in the pan. Add the tomatoes right into the pan; the moisture from the tomatoes will help loosen the drippings stuck at the bottom. Believe me, you want to scrape every bit of that into the sauce.
Once the tomatoes begin to soften and you’ve loosened the drippings, add the sherry and, if you’re not nervous about it, light a flame to burn off the alcohol. You don’t have to do it, since the tomatoes are still cooking at a pretty high heat, this will help evaporate the alcohol. Lower the temperature to medium-low, add the chicken and pork and cover it. Allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes or so, you’ll be preparing the veggies and seafood while that simmers away.
For the Paella:
1/2 cp Spanish chorizo, diced
1 onion, chopped
3-4 scallions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
4 cps rice (I used jasmine)
1/2 cp dry sherry or white wine
6 cps chicken/seafood broth
Saffron, a generous pinch
2 Bay leaves
1 lb large shrimp
1/2 lb baby scallops
1 tsp garlic, crushed
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb mussels
3/4 cp peas & carrots, frozen
1/4 cp Italian parsley, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the seafood: hopefully you bought unpeeled shrimp. If so, peel and devein the shrimp, but hold on to the skins. Put the deveined shrimp and scallops in a bowl and add the teaspoon of garlic, salt, oil and pepper. Mix it well and set aside.
Also, make sure you give the mussels a good scrubbing and that you remove the beard.
Place the chicken broth in a small pan and simmer it with the bay leaves and the shrimp peel for about 15 minutes. Strain the broth and discard the peel and bay. Add the saffron to the broth and allow it to steep while you begin cooking the aromatics.
The chicken and pork should be nice and tender by now, remove it from the pan, but leave the dripping in the pan. When the chicken has cooled, pull it off the bone and break into bite size pieces. Set it all aside.
To the pan where you cooked the chicken, add the bell peppers slices and cook them until they begin to soften. Remove the peppers from the pan and set aside.
To the pan, now add the cubed chorizo. Remember Spanish chorizo is similar to andouille, it is dry and hard, not to be confused with the Mexican variety. Cook the chorizo until it begins to render its fat. Add the onions and scallions and cook until the onions are translucent.
At this point, add the 1/2 cp of sherry and make sure you release all the drippings at the bottom of the skillet.
You will notice how dramatically the color changes after deglazing. It becomes this beautiful deep terracotta hue and you just know there’s an incredible amount of flavor layered in there. And I can’t even begin to explain how glorious it all smells.
While the onions cook, rinse and drain the rice. Add the rice to the pan with the onions, stirring to make sure all the grains are coated. If it looks too dry, add a bit of olive oil. Continue stirring and frying the rice for about 3 minutes until the grains begin to turn white.
Add the broth and give it a quick taste to make sure the rice liquid is well-seasoned, adjust accordingly. Allow the broth to come to a boil before layering the meats on top.
First the chicken and pork, make sure to push them into the rice.
As the liquid evaporates and you begin to see the top of the rice, add the peas & carrots trying to spread them out as evenly as possible.
Next, layer the red peppers.
It’s time for the mussels. Again, push them into the rice and try to spread them around.
Reduce the temperature to low. More than likely, the liquid will be almost completely gone by now, this is when you layer the shrimp and scallops over the top.
Once you have all the seafood in, place the lid over the pan and allow it to steam for 20 minutes to give the rice grains enough time to open, at which point it will be done!
Sprinkle the parsley over the top just before serving.
It makes a beautiful presentation to bring the pan right over to the table, but you can also serve it beforehand as the pot WILL be completely full.