A few years back, during one of those “can’t get to sleep, gonna watch something mindless on the Boob-Tube” nights, I watched an episode of Mexico – One Plate At A Time. It was anything BUT mindless. Rick Bayless was cooking up Paella – over an open fire pit he was digging in his yard. Really – digging? Then he pulled out his Paella Pan – it was something like 3-foot round and looked like an aluminum wading pool. Wow! I wanted one of those. I began dropping hints to my guys – Mother’s Day was coming soon. What I got was a Paella Pan about 18″-round. Okay, so it wasn’t the giant pan – but it was a pan that was far easier to manage, cooking up Paella in quantities more suited to our family.
Pan conquered – next huddle – what to put in the pan. The most common ingredient (besides the rice) are an assortment of shell-fish. Hum, that wouldn’t work. Brother Dear was living with us at the time, and no doubt he would have headed straight for the hills. Kiddo would have pushed the shells around on his plate, not a huge fan, and it would have been a waste. That just left Hubby and I. Chicken was a possibility – and good Chorizo in the casing. Still, I liked the way shrimp looked in the pan. Oh, what the heck – chicken, chorizo and shrimp it is! Let them pick through and eat whatever they liked. Add some tomatoes, peas and olives for more color, texture and flavor. Yeah, now we’re cookin’! After all, Paella originated as a peasant dish, cooked up in the fields over an open fire with whatever happened to be at hand. As such, there truly isn’t a “wrong” way to create this Spanish dish. In my book, that was a licence to be as creative as the moment and mood.
The final dilemma – how to cook the Paella. No offense to Rick – but I wasn’t about to ask Hubby to dig a fire-pit in the back yard. While we do own a charcoal barbecue, it’s not a round Weber (recommended by most sites). If you own one – great! If you are planning to make Paella more than a few times a year, I suppose you could always invest in one. If you are like me, and are experimenting with Paella, the stove-top will do. So the recipe I developed is actually cooked on top of the stove. (Eventually I plan to buy a small kettle Weber – maybe next summer).
Spanish Paella (American Style)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
6 Chicken Thighs, boneless
¼ Cup Flour
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, pressed
4 Chorizo Sausage, in casings, split (Use Johnsonville Chorizo) or Hot Link Sausages, split
2 Cups Yellow Rice (Arroz Amarillo)
Pinch of Saffron, rubbed
Dash of Cayenne Pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 ½ Cups Chicken Broth (2 cans)
1 1/2 Cups Tomatoes, chopped
10-12 Jumbo Shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon garlic
¼ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 Cup Peas, steamed
Parsley or Cilantro for garnish
Black or green Olives (Optional)
Crusty Bread (such as French) for dipping
Chop onions & tomatoes, set aside. Peel garlic, set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a Paella pan over medium-high heat. Season Chicken with salt, then dredge in flour. Add to skillet and cook until well browned on both sides, about 6-8 minutes.
Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
Add chorizo, brown well, about 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty skillet. Add onions and garlic, sauté until tender, about 3 minuets. To skillet, add rice, and saute 3-4 minutes.
Add spices, salt, pepper, broth and tomatoes. Bring to a low boil. Return chicken and sausage to skillet. Cover pan with lid or foil reduce heat to very low and simmer until rice is tender, about 30-40 minutes.
When rice is almost cooked, sauté shrimp with a little butter, garlic powder and red pepper flakes in a sauté pan over low heat until nicely pink. Set aside and keep warm. Steam peas with a small amount of butter.
Remove Paella from heat. Remove chicken and sausage. Stir in steamed peas.
Return chicken and sausage to pan. Top with warmed shrimp in decorative pattern. Cover and let sit until peas and shrimp are heated through, about 5-10 minutes.
Garnish with parsley or cilantro and black or green olives.
To serve Spanish-style, place pan in the center of the table. Everyone eats straight from the pan, using torn chunks of bread, pita bread or tortillas. (Note: for more authentic Spanish Paella, omit the chicken, add more seafood such as muscle, clams or scallops. In true Spanish tradition, the “star” of this dish is the browned rice).
Entertaining Idea: Skip the chicken in the Paella itself. Instead, serve with Portuguese Braised Chicken, plenty of bread and some fortified imported wines from Portugal or Spain.
Perfect for casual entertaining with a few close friends.