As a thunderstorm was pounding rain on the roof here at Jungle Jim's International Market, we were inside brainstorming what to have for lunch. Which lead to ideas about meals in general and we hit upon a winner - paella! This flavorful, iconic rice dish of Spain is perfect for summer. It is a one-dish meal, is great for a large group and can be made on the grill if you want to enjoy a balmy summer evening. Add a green salad and some crusty bread and ole!
Attributes of authentic paella include some key ingredients and a specific pan. If you are a fan of paella, here are a couple tips to help you get started:
1. The Pan - a paella pan is a low, wide, steel pan with handles. Its specific purpose is to make paella. If you want to try making paella without purchasing the pan, you could use a wide 15-inch skillet. Paella pans are not expensive and if you follow the directions to season it well like ours above, you will have a better chance of success. We offer a nice selection of paella pans in our Gourmet Galeria.
2. The Rice - a short-grained white rice - Bomba - is the traditional. You will find it in the Spanish section or you can use La Preferida brand pearl rice in the Mexican section.
3. The Saffron - golden-tinged and aromatic, saffron is the most expensive spice on earth. It is the hand-gathered stamen of the crocus plant. The good news is that you only need 1/4 teaspoon and The Cooking School carries a superb, reasonably priced saffron.
4. The Chorizo - a fully-cooked Spanish sausage that adds the smoky kick of flavor. You will find it in our charcuterie case. Don't confuse this with the fresh, raw chorizo you may find in the regular meat department. It just wouldn't taste the same.
5. The Paprika - smoked paprika gives this dish a deep smoky flavor and aroma, a pretty color and some heat. If you like more of a burn, you can use a hot smoked paprika. The Cooking School also carries a nice smoked paprika.
The technique for making paella is somewhat unusual. Once the rice is in the pan, paella is not stirred — or hardly at all. The other is that you want the bottom to brown if at all possible. If this is your first time making paella, don't worry about browning the bottom (socarrat.) - it can easily go from brown to burned.
The steam is rising from a fragrant pan of paella (above). The finished dish below was a perfect lunch!
Paella with Chicken, Chorizo and Shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chorizo sausage (Spanish, cooked) thickly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups short-grain white rice (Bomba or pearl)
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
½ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
Zest of one lemon
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a seasoned 15-inch paella pan over medium heat. Add chorizo and cook until lightly browned; remove from pan and set aside. Add chicken mixture to pan and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and just cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes to pan; cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Fold in the rice, stirring to coat rice with oil, about 2 minutes. Stir in saffron, parsley, chicken stock, and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and nestle chicken and chorizo into rice. Simmer 20 minutes, checking pan frequently and rotating to avoid hot spots as needed.
Arrange shrimp atop rice, scatter with the peas and cover tightly with foil. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and shrimp is cooked through. Allow paella to rest 5 minutes before serving.