With its origins in the Andalusian peninsula, paella is the epitome of Spanish comfort food. This traditional dish can be crafted with a variety of meats and vegetables; however, every traditional paella recipe will include extra virgin olive oil, short grain Valencia rice and saffron. The key to creating perfect paella is a good socarrat which is the crispy, caramelized rice at the bottom of the pan that is loaded with flavor and texture. After you master this base recipe, you'll be ready to branch out and try different ingredients - we recommend using seasonal vegetables, and local meat.
Traditional Paella Española
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 bone-in chicken thighs w/ skin halved
2 links uncooked Spanish chorizo chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped in large pieces
3 ounces fresh green beans (about 16 green beans)
1 small yellow onion, diced in large pieces
1/8 cup diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 cup Paella rice
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried saffron
4 large shrimp (optional)
6 fresh mussels (optional)
Fresh parsley leaves
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1. In a cast iron skillet on high heat, add olive oil and kosher salt and bring up to temperature.
2. Brown the chicken thighs skin side down. As the skin begins to turn a golden brown color, turn the thighs and add the Spanish chorizo. After browning, remove meat to a separate bowl.
3. Without removing olive oil and the accumulated chicken fat, add the bell pepper. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally and add green beans. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes before adding onions. After the onions begin to become translucent, stir in garlic followed by tomatoes. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes before adding the chicken and chorizo back into the pan along with any accumulated juices. Stir in smoked paprika and paella rice making sure to evenly spread rice throughout the dish. Pour chicken stock into the skillet without stirring and spread crushed saffron over the stock.
4. With the pan still on high heat, cook the paella for 20 minutes. Decrease the temperature to medium low for an additional 15 minutes. Never stir the Paella after the rice has begun to boil. At this point, the liquid should have receded below the rice. Add the shrimp and mussels (optional) to the dish being sure to gently sink the seafood down into the paella. Add the fresh parsley leaves and rosemary sprigs and cover lightly with a piece of foil and decrease heat to low for an additional 5 minutes.
5. Remove the foil and check to be sure that the seafood has finished cooking and that the rice has a dark hue against the wall of the skillet. There should be very little liquid still bubbling, the mussels should have opened up and the shrimp should have a nice pink hue. Allow the paella to rest for an additional 5 minutes. The paella should have a crispy crusty bottom as a result of the rice caramelizing due to a lack of stirring - the socarrat.
6. Set the rosemary aside and serve with a slice of fresh lemon. Be sure to include parts of the top, center and the socarrat with each serving.
This meal can be easily made on a stove, grill or camp fire. Paella can be made with a variety of meats and vegetables. When you are ready to branch out, try using rabbit, artichoke hearts, peas and fava beans. For vegetarians or vegans, use a vegetable stock and add additional vegetables as a replacement for the meat.