The very first time I had paella was in Biarritz, France, a tiny coastal town on the border with Spain, that I visited as a student for an art festival with my professor and a few other students. My innocent palate was enchanted by this dish that was teaming with so many ingredients to discover with each bite – succulent mussels, richly flavored rice, bright bursting peas! I had never had anything like it before and was quickly smitten.
When I came back to Spain years later, and Valencia was on our itinerary, I knew I HAD to take my friends for some paella b/c Valencia is the birthplace of the dish. We wandered down to the beach where there was a strip of restaurants that have been around for centuries and dove into gigantic pans of paella. The best part was scraping the charred bottom of the pan to release the crunchy rice crust that forms at the bottom of the dish! This part is called the soccarat and is essential in a good paella.
Recently, I purchased a paella pan as I was reminiscing about all the good times I’ve had around the dish. This weekend, I decided to give that pan it’s first spin around the block and made some paella with chicken, chorizo, mussels, shrimp, and calamari. The pan performed beautifully, giving us a fantastic crispy soccarat! I also enjoyed cooking the whole shrimp with their heads on!
(Check out my awesome new basil plant in the background! I’m naming him Barry the Basil Plant!)
I based the following recipe off of Alton Brown’s, but with several adjustments.
- 5-6 chicken drumsticks or thighs, skin on
- 1/2 lb chorizo
- 1/2 lb shrimp (head and shell on!!)
- 1/2 lb mussels
- 1/2 lb bag of mixed frozen seafood (calamari, scallops, octopus) (Do not NEED this, but I saw a bag for $3 and it was actually surprisingly fresh and very high quality seafood!)
- 3 cups arborio or japanese rice (should be a short round ish grain)
- 3 medium tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 red onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- Smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- Salt, pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- Bunch parsley
1. Heat up 10 cups of water to boiling.
2. Rub about 1 tsp salt & 1 tsp paprika on the chicken and set aside about 10 min.
3. Devein the shrimp and then place them in a bowl and add about 2 TB olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp paprika. Leave to marinate.
4. By now the water is boiling, toss in the mussels and frozen seafood and cook about 7 minutes. Place a colander over another pot and drain the seafood out while reserving the broth. Keep the broth in a pot on the stove with a lid on to keep it warm.
6. Slice the tomatoes in 1/2. Using a grater with wide holes, grate the tomatoes into a bowl, forming a tomato puree.
7. Mix together the rice, saffron threads, 1 tsp paprika, and 1 tsp of salt. Set aside.
8. Take you paella pan ( or the largest, shallowest pan you have) and add a few swirls of olive oil and heat to high.
9. Cook the chicken about 5 min per side to get a nice brown on the meat. Move to the outside of the pan when you are done.
10. Add chorizo to the pan and brown it. (I had ground chorizo, but sausage style is great too)
11. Add garlic, onion, tomato, bell pepper, 1 tsp of paprika and sautee to combine. Cook about 7-10 minutes until the onions start softening. Turn the pan periodically to ensure even cooking.
12. Pour in the tomato and continue cooking until you have it cooked down to a paste. This is the sofrito that imparts the flavor to your paella!
13. Heat up your seafood broth.
14. Add the seafood mix (no mussels or shrimp) into the pan and stir to distribute 1 min.
15. Now add the rice/saffron/salt/paprika to the center of the pan and stir to cook about 1-2 min.
16. Rearrange the chicken on top of the rice like spokes on a wheel.
17. Pour the HOT seafood broth into the pan. From this point on you will NOT stir the rice! This allows the soccarat to form. Let it cook 8-9 minutes.
18. The rice has soaked up all of the broth. Add another 4 cups of hot broth and turn the heat to medium.
19. In a separate pan, sautee your shrimp about 3 min per side until they are pink. Do not over cook!
20. Arrange the mussels and shrimp nestled into the rice. Add another cup of broth. Pour the green peas on top.
21. Get foil and cover the pan. Turn the heat up to high and cook for 2 minutes. You should start smelling the toasty smell of the rice getting caramelized at the bottom. Don’t let it get too burnt!