Spanish paella is usually served in large quantities and is actually named for the pan it’s cooked in, not the dish itself.
Spain’s beloved rice dish is enjoyed throughout the country, but it has its roots in Valencia—a port city that played host to traders from throughout the Mediterranean. The Moors brought rice to Spain in the tenth century, and within a few hundred years, with the help of irrigation techniques introduced by the Romans, rice became a staple of the Spanish diet.
The earliest iteration of paella was a humble peasant dish, cooked over an open fire to feed farmers and their field workers at lunch. While the ingredients used today can range from simple to luxurious, one thing remains certain: It’s a dish meant for a crowd. The ritual of preparation is an event in itself, often found at the center of social gatherings and celebrations. Paella is a labor of love.
Paella is actually named not for the recipe, but for the type of pan it’s cooked in: a wide, shallow vessel with two handles, meant to be used over an open flame. While a specialized pan isn’t necessary to prepare paella, cooking it over a stovetop burner vs. in the oven is the best way to guarantee that crunchy layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan. Called socarrat, it’s the essential mark of a well-made paella.
We bring you this recipe courtesy of Epicurious. To see firsthand how to prepare it, check out the film at the end of the recipe—and download an easy-to-print PDF.
Chicken & Rabbit Paella
This recipe includes a bonus lesson in butchering rabbit. If the process seems too ambitious and you can’t find the loin pre-butchered, simply omit the rabbit—and skip step 2.
- 1 3/4 cups dried lima beans (broad beans), soaked overnight in 10 cups water and drained
- 6 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided use
- 1 rabbit (about 2 pounds or 900 g)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large chicken (about 4 pounds 8 ounces or 2 kg), cut into 8 pieces
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and puréed
- 1 3/4 cups chopped onions
- 2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 3/4 cups green beans (preferably flat romano beans)
- 2 1/2 to 3 quarts (2 1/2 to 3 liters) water, plus more as needed
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 2 generous pinches saffron
- 4 cups Bomba rice
- Bring 10 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat and add the dried beans. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until just tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Stir in 2 teaspoons of salt and let rest in their liquid for about 30 minutes before draining.
- Cut up the rabbit: Cut off the hind legs, using a sharp boning knife to slice between each leg and the hip joint. Cut each hind leg into two pieces, slicing at the joint between the thigh and leg. Cut off the front legs, slicing between each leg and the shoulder joint. Cut the body into three sections: ribs, loin, and bottom, using a heavy meat cleaver. Cut the loin in half, then cut the ribs in half through the breast and backbone, then cut each half in half.
- Prepare a wood (or charcoal) fire and heat the oil in a large paella pan set over the hottest part of the fire. Season the chicken and rabbit with 2 teaspoons each of salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and rabbit and fry over medium-high heat, turning the meat to brown all sides evenly, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and green beans and continue to cook over medium heat until the beans are nearly tender, about 15 minutes. Add 10 cups of water and the rosemary sprig and move to the hottest part of the grill, or rearrange or add coals to raise the heat to high. Cover the pan with a grill lid.
- Remove the lid when the water comes to a boil. Stir in 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt and the saffron, then sprinkle the rice evenly around the pan directly into the liquid, avoiding the meat.
- Add the broad beans. Stir gently one time only to evenly distribute the rice (do not stir again). Remove the rosemary.
- Cook, uncovered, turning the pan one-quarter turn every 5 minutes to help ensure even heat distribution. Cook the rice over high heat for 10 minutes, or until the water is almost absorbed, then move to a cooler part of the grill and cook at a gentle simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid. The rice should be al dente when it is done; if it is too firm when the liquid is absorbed, add additional water 1 cup at a time, continuing cooking until the rice is done. During this period, keep the heat at a level that allows the liquid to simmer gently.
- Remove the paella from the heat, and cover and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve about 2 cups of the rice and vegetables and 1 piece each of the rabbit and chicken for each of 8 servings in large heated soup bowls. Or place the warm paella pan on the table and allow guests to serve themselves.
See how the pros at Epicurious prepare this recipe—and expertly butcher a rabbit—in this film:
Seek out authentic Spanish paella when you join our Iberian Voyage: Lisbon to Barcelona Small Ship Adventure.