Paella (pa-AY-ya) is a Spanish rice dish. Broken down, it’s just Rice Done Right with ingredients added. Well, with one exception.
A characteristic of Paella is that once you add the liquid, you don’t stir it. A crust of lightly-browned rice along the bottom of the dish is desirable. To achieve that, you need a paella pan (paellera). The pan is huge compared to the rest of your skillets, with two loop handles on either side. It resembles what is commonly called an “everyday pan” but is much shallower. Also, a paellera is made of really thin metal to pass heat directly to the food without retaining much itself. The two obstructions I have come up with right off the bat with this is that: 1. the pan is too big for my stovetop eye, so I get a hotspot in the middle of the pan and the items on the fringes (especially the rice) aren’t fully cooked; and 2. the pan has no cover, so the ‘steaming the rice’ core of the Rice Done Right method doesn’t work at all. How do we get around this? Simple: Start on the stovetop, finish in the oven!
Traditional paella is seasoned, delicately, with saffron. And if you can afford that, by all means do! But saffron’s not the only player on the team. This base recipe uses smoked paprika and turmeric (one for the flavor, the other for the color) as a substitute. Both are much more readily available and affordable. From this base, you can sub players in-and-out as you like, or as you have things available. Enjoy!
- 4 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 2 ea chicken breasts trimmed and diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 5 cups chicken broth simmering
- 2 ea small red onions finely diced
- 3 cloves fresh garlic smashed and chopped
- 1 ea red bell pepper finely diced
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric ground
- 1 pinch chili powder
- 2.5 cups rice arborio is ideal but long grain will work
- 1 lb raw shrimp peeled
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped fine
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
- Because the metal of the pan is so thin, preheat the pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes and then reduce to a medium-low setting.
- Put the chicken broth into a saucepan and bring to a simmer (170 degrees F)
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in the pan. Evenly season the chicken with salt and pepper. Saute until golden brown and remove from the pan.
- Add two more tbsp of oil to the paellera. Saute the onion, garlic, and pepper (This is called "sofrito"). Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. We want the onion to start to caramelize and the pepper to be really soft.
- Add the paprika, chili powder, and rice to the mixture. Stir until well-combined. Add the cooked chicken and the raw shrimp.
- Stir in the hot chicken broth, tomato paste, and add salt and pepper again, to taste if needed. Bring this to a good boil, cover with aluminum foil, and place in the oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Check. If rice is not tender, add 5 more minutes (just like Rice Done Right).
- Remove from the oven and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes or until any remaining liquid is absorbed.
- I prefer to serve in bowls, but deep plates will work. I stir each portion as I serve it, making sure each gets some of the crusty, caramelized rice on the bottom. Serve with a nice, crusty bread like a french loaf. Sprinkle each portion with fresh, chopped parsley.