October 26, 2010

 I had my first taste of paella when I was 10 years old, when a family friend from Spain came to visit and wowed my family with the most amazing dish I had ever seen. The golden rice with a crispy golden crust, bursting with the flavors of chicken, shrimp and tomatoes, haunted my culinary memory for years. And once I started throwing my own parties, it became a staple dish. (I made it this weekend for my dad, and it was a big hit!) The fragrant saffron, the smokey paprika, the creamy rice---it is simply sublime. It’s a fabulous party dish, too—beautiful to look at and relatively easy to pull together. And with a bottle of Rioja (or Sangria!) it just might be the perfect meal. A few quick notes: be sure to use short-grain rice. It’s worth looking for paella rice--it absorbs the liquid like no other--but Arborio rice will work in a pinch. And a paella pan is an excellent investment; the wide, shallow dish cooks the rice evenly and looks amazing when you serve it! If you don’t live near a good kitchen store, go online to La Tienda or The Spanish Table—both retailers have an incredible array of Spanish cooking products, including paella pans, rice, and saffron.


  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 1½ pounds chicken thighs, preferably boneless and skinless, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1-inch strips
  • ½ cup diced chorizo (see Note)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet pimentón de la Vera (Spanish smoked paprika; don’t use Hungarian paprika)
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4½ cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup dry sherry (preferably Manzanilla)
  • 2 cups paella rice (Bomba or Calasparra)
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 pound large shrimp (shell on)
  • 1 pound littleneck clams
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed
  • 1/4 bunch Italian parsley, minced
  • Lemon wedges, for serving 
  1. Slice tomatoes in half, and grate each on a box grater over a bowl. Discard skins; set pulp aside.
  2. Set an 18-inch paella pan over two burners at high heat on the stove top, Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Lightly season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and brown on both sides until deep golden. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  3. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions, season with a pinch of salt, and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and bell pepper and sauté about 4 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato pulp and chorizo and cook until about 5 minutes. Add paprika and saffron, and cook for about 1 minute. Add sherry and cook until evaporated. Add chicken stock; bring to a boil. Add the chicken pieces.
  4. Sprinkle rice across the pan and stir until the grains are submerged, then don't stir again. It’s important that you don’t stir the rice again – resist the urge! It will look like a lot of liquid but it will eventually be absorbed. Cook on high heat for 10 minutes, rotating the pan on the two burners to distribute heat. Using a small spoon, test rice and stock and add salt as needed. Reduce heat to low and continue simmering for 6-8 minutes. Test rice again. If it is still hard, continue cooking for 2-4 more minutes.
  5. Arrange the shellfish and shrimp over the top of the paella, submerging them slightly. (If the pan is too crowded you can steam the shellfish in a separate pot and add to the paella before serving.)
  6. In the final 2 minutes, sprinkle frozen peas over the top and return heat to medium-high, listening for a crackling sound to ensure the bottom is toasting but not burning. Remove from heat, cover with paper towels and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove any shellfish that hasn’t opened.
  7. 8. Use a metal spoon to scrape toasted rice from bottom of pan and serve with a bowl of lemon wedges. Serves 6

Note: Chorizo is a dried pork sausage seasoned with smoked pimenton (paprika) from Spain available at most specialty stores. You can find fresh chorizo but for paella it’s best to use dried.

You May Like