Classic Paella

Anytime we go on vacation…actually, anytime we leave the house… Mr. “He Cleans” is on a quest for vinyl.  As in LPs, records, albums, and what have you.  This is the source of much of the incredible music I get to listen to, so no complaints here.  However, I hope there is either a comfy sofa in the record store or another business nearby of interest to me so that I can entertain myself while he digs through the stacks.  Ten minutes of browsing through cds and records is past my limit – he can go for hours.

When we were last in Santa Fe, near the corner of N. Guadalupe and W. San Francisco streets, he found a great shop with records, The Good Stuff.  Happily for me, on the other side of the corner there is an incredible store, The Spanish Table, filled with anything you might want for preparing and serving Spanish Foods.  From the beautiful ceramics and clay cookware, cook books, and paella pans, to cheeses, chocolates, imported spices, chorizo, and shelves of gourmet-quality ingredients….let’s just say I was thoroughly entertained.

From that visit I bought my first paella pan (I now have 2), and the fun of preparing a great, one-dish meal!  Why had I never made paella before?  It is so easy, and it is a great way to get rid of leftovers – as we discovered on our last day of vacation.  We had leftover pork chops, so I cut them into pieces and threw them in the pan with the rice, chorizo, the rest of the chicken stock, leftover roasted cauliflower, and at the end of cooking, stirred in some baby spinach.  Voila!  Refrigerator cleaned out, and it was fantastic!

Here’s a basic recipe for paella, but it is more fun to improvise with what you have on hand.   This recipe is adapted from The Spanish Table, Traditional Recipes and Wine Pairings From Spain and Portugal (authored by the owner of The Spanish Table store).  Ingredients are listed PER SERVING, so multiply by how many servings you wish to make.

Ingredients (Per Serving):

  • 5 threads saffron
  • 1/4 cup warm, dry white wine (or water, or broth)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or enough to completely cover the bottom of the pan when it is cool)
  • 1 chicken thigh
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 soft Spanish-style cooking chorizo
  • 1/2 cup uncooked Bomba rice (or preferably other Valencian rice.  If unavailable, Arborio rice from Italy can be substituted.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika or sweet paprika
  • 1/4 cup diced or grated tomato
  • 1 cup water or clam juice
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2-3 shrimp
  • 2-4 small clams or mussels
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • parsley and lemon wedges, for garnish (optional)

Dissolve saffron in wine, and set aside.

At a medium to medium-high temperature, heat the olive oil in a paella pan large enough to hold the desired servings.  Lightly season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper.  Cook the chicken thighs, turning, until browned on both sides and chicken juice runs clear.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add onions and garlic, and saute until translucent.  Add chorizo and cook until heated throughout.  Add rice and paprika, stirring until well-coated with oil, for about one minute.  Add the tomato, wine with saffron, chicken stock, and other liquids.  Bring to a boil, stirring, then adjust the heat to maintain a simmer.  Add the chicken back to the pan, and the seafood.  (If using clams or mussels, push the hinge-side down into the rice.)  Add the remaining vegetables.

Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the rice is done. Unlike risotto, do not stir the paella.  Rotate the pan as necessary to spread out the heat.  Don’t worry about rice sticking to the bottom of the pan, because if the rice forms a caramelized layer on the pan that is a good thing called the socarrat!  (Just be careful that the rice does not dry out and burn.)

When the rice is done, remove the paella from the heat and let it rest for 15 minutes, lightly covered with foil or paper.  Or, as the the Spanish to English translation on the paella pan flyer says, “The rice, already dried, has to be for some minutes in repose before being served.”  This is the time for the cook to have an apertif, according to the cookbook.  Who am I to argue?

In repose…

Hey now! It ain’t easy coming up with new music! Like today’s artist, Dave Alvin. Formerly of The Blasters, Dave has been crafting some of the finest roots rock for years, such as Museum of Heart, his 1993 release. Great songs such as “Thirty Dollar Room” and “Don’t Talk About Her” make his an early favourite.

As is Blackjack David. The title cut, a traditional murder ballad is tailor made for Alvin. And if you can listen to “California Snow” without a lump in your throat, well, you’re a better man than I.


17 thoughts on “Classic Paella

  1. Oh what an awesome post. One of my favorite of all dishes. And done with such an awesome list of ingredients: “rice, chorizo, the rest of the chicken stock, leftover roasted cauliflower, and at the end of cooking, stirred in some baby spinach. ” I wish all paella had these ingredients, and any paella without onion, bell pepper, or garlic in it will rock my world.

    You also may not be able to listen to this Snow without a lump in your throat – I sure can’t!

    (No, it’s not necessary to direct me to look more closely at either the photo or the list of ingredients. Some personal fantasies can easily be left uncorrected.)

  2. Ahh-mazing!! My parents brought me back a paella pan and some saffron from Spain last Spring. I need to try a paella, but I’m nervous about screwing up the socarrat.I’ve already researched how to do it on my Big Green Egg, I guess I just need to take the plunge. Thanks for the motivation.

    1. Gina, I don’t know a whole lot about chorizo either. I’ve used two kinds – one was more like sausage in casing, the other was dried. Both I just sliced (left in the casing). I will search around for more info…but this has worked for me.

      1. I’ve found several things. Some say remove the casing and dice. Mark Bittman says this: “Make sure you use the type of chorizo that comes wrapped like salami or a hot dog because you need to be able to dice it. The more sausage-like chorizo will crumble when you cut through the casing.”

  3. Eso no es una paella española ni de lejos eso es una ofensa para la Paella Valenciana, Spain.
    No se hace con “sobras”
    Lleva Aceite de Oliva
    Pollo, Conejo, bachoqueta, garrofon y un sofr
    to de tomate, reposar 10′ y a comer.

    Gracias y antes de hacer algo informarse cuesta poco
    Adiós baya baya Pedro Gómez.

    1. So sorry to offend. The “leftovers” were not part of the recipe, but were mentioned as a frugal and delicious option. Otherwise, you can direct your issues of veracity to the authors of The Spanish Table.

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