July 19, 2013
Without a doubt, one of the most common comments I hear about our Spain’s Cultural Capitals and Spain & Portugal in Depth trips are about how much travelers enjoy the food. One of Spain’s most recognizable—and distinctive—dishes is paella. This one-pan specialty features a crusty, caramelized layer of rice called socarrat, which forms on the bottom of the pan and is mixed in with the rest of the fluffy rice for yummy, crunchy bits, bursting with flavor. Although a special pan is used in Spain, you can get delicious results at home by using a large frying pan.
There are three widely known types of paella: Valencian (with rabbit, chicken, and snails); seafood; and mixed (such as the recipe below). Key ingredients usually include Spanish staples like saffron, chorizo, and olive oil.
1 medium, ripe tomato (about 6 ounces)
12 large shrimp (about 9 ounces), peeled and deveined
3/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
Freshly ground black pepper
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces Spanish chorizo sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil, as needed
2/3 cup yellow onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
1 pinch saffron threads
1 1/3 cups paella rice (about 10 ounces), sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia
3/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the shrimp and chicken
2 2/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 mussels, Manila clams, or a combination, scrubbed
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 medium lemon, cut into 8 wedges, for serving
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange a rack in the middle.
- Core and halve the tomato. Grate the flesh side of each half on the large holes of a box grater set over a medium bowl, stopping when you get to the skin. Discard the skins. You should have about 1/2 cup of tomato pulp and juice; set aside.
- Place the shrimp in a small bowl, add 1/4 teaspoon of the paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine, then refrigerate.
- Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.
- Place a large 12-inch oven-safe frying pan over medium-high heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Add the chorizo to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has started to brown and the fat has rendered, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl; set aside.
- There should be a thin layer of rendered fat in the pan. If there’s not enough, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan in a single layer and sear, stirring occasionally, until both sides are golden brown, about 6 minutes total. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the chorizo; set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and saffron, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice and cook until the mixture has slightly darkened in color, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and ¾ teaspoon salt and stir to coat in the tomato mixture.
- Increase the heat to medium high. Add the broth and stir to combine. Arrange the rice mixture in an even layer. Distribute the chorizo and chicken over the rice, adding accumulated juices from the bowl. (Do not stir the rice from this point on.)
- Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the rice grains have swelled, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the rice starts to make a crackling sound, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Arrange the reserved shrimp and the shellfish (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Before serving the paella, discard unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.