Friday, February 24, 2012

Paella! Paella!

Paella is Spanish fusion cooking at its best. This traditional dish reflects a nation influenced by many cultures and has as many versions as there are kitchens in Spain. It is a dish I have been anxious to try...but have never quite gotten up the nerve. Well, anxious no more! My visiting brother, Scott offered to make this stunning and delicious dish for a dinner party with friends as well as school me in the way of paella.

Paella, basically a peasant dish, was a way for families to use whatever was available in the pantry. In fact the only certainty in Paella is rice...and saffron. Perhaps that is why I was hesitant, not enough structure..? That and, oh yes, the price of saffron. At $15/gram it is considered the most expensive spice in the world. Fortunately this dish only takes a "pinch" and one single gram can flavor several Paellas.

Saffron comes from the stigma of the saffron crocus and no wonder it is expensive, taking over 70,000 flowers and about 200 hours of labor to produce only 1 pound.
The best saffron is bright red, and not yellow. Throw a few threads in hot water (or other liquid) to release saffron's beautiful yellow-orange color and evocative scent and beneficial properties; both the threads and liquid go right into your dish! So much more about saffron here.

Source: via Victoria on Pinterest

Paella! Paella!
Victoria Copeland and Scott Barringer
This takes about 2 1/2 hours, with 1 hour to marinate the
chicken, 1/2 hour to prep and 1 hour to cook the paella.

This dish is traditionally prepared and served in a paella pan but you can use a large shallow sauté pan.
Click here to view/purchase the pan we used.


  • Spice Mix for chicken, recipe follows
  • 6 chicken thighs, boneless
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Spanish chorizo sausages, thickly sliced (this is a cured sausage)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • Bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, reserve some for garnish
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
  • 2 cups short grain Spanish rice you can also use Arborio (do not use reg. white rice)
  • 4 cups warmed chicken stock
  • Generous pinch saffron threads about 1/2 gram
  • 2 pound box of New Zealand Greenlip flash frozen mussels (hey, I live in the desert)
  • 1 pound uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined or not, they look cool with the tail on
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Special equipment:

  • Large paella pan or wide shallow skillet


Rub the spice mix all over the chicken and marinate chicken for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Heat oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the chorizo until slightly browned, remove and reserve. Add chicken skin-side down and brown on all sides, turning with tongs. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove from pan and reserve.
In the same pan, sauté the rice to coat the grains, add to that the sofrito by sautéing the onions, garlic, and parsley. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Add the saffron to the warm stock then add to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Add chicken, chorizo. Add the shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al denté, for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan, add the greenlip mussels on top, tucking them in slightly. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it is perfect (we did have to hold this in a 200° oven for about 1/2 hour for our party).
The ideal paella has a toasted rice bottom called socarrat.
Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Garnish parsley and lemon wedges.

Spice Mix for chicken:

  • 1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika (my favorite new "go to" spice)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken; marinate for 1 hour, covered.

 All but the shrimp and mussels cooking stove-top

Finished! These flash frozen mussels were great, as they are par-cooked, so we knew they were cooked well and they were so good, fat, juicy yummy!  What an impressive decorative statement as well!

Crusty bread, and a light salad (sorry Jan it didn't make my shot) and a nice Sauvignon Blanc for white wine and for a red, a Tempranillo de Rioja. In fact, I was so busy eating I forgot all about photos!

I borrowed the paella pan for this meal and went right out the next day and bought one of my own! I can't wait to experiment this summer with fresh seafood. Thanks Scott for my paella intensive! You're the best!!! xo


Maria Rose said...

I have been searching for a good vegan version of paella for some time now. I have found some good ones, but not great.

Saffron is so expensive here in Wyoming. You'd think it was made from the souls of saints or something.

Victoria said...

I can grab some saffron for you at Trader Joe's before your trip South. It's about $6.00 for half a gram. Good enough for one paella. Maybe we should make it while you are here?!!!
What ingredients have you tried?

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