Paella is the national dish of Spain. It is a delicious rice dish that can be filled with your choice of meat, seafood or vegetables. It is perfect for entertaining and everyone loves to watch the process with anticipation of the wonderful meal they are about to enjoy.
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Don’t ignore this dish because you don’t have a paella pan. They vary in quality and size from 12-inches to 18-inches measured across. This 15-inch carbon steel paella pan is like the one I have and it will likely last your forever. If you don’t want to make the investment then an extra large frying pan will do the trick.
If you are serious about paella, or love to give these kind of gifts, here is a Paella gift kit that includes the pan, rice, saffron and a cookbook. When I was first married my husband gave me all kinds of food gifts like this that fuelled my passion for cooking so I highly recommend this strategy.
The Essential Parts of Paella
The Rice – Paella is made with short grain rice which is readily available in most grocery stores. It is often labeled as arborio or risotto rice. Spanish bomba rice would be the authentic choice but use what you can find and make some paella soon.
The Sofrito – The combination of vegetables and aromatic ingredients sautéed together to create the base of your paella is called sofrito. There is variation among cooks but it is most often a combination of onion, garlic, tomatoes and paprika. The vegetables can be finely chopped or grated.
The Pimentón – Considered one of the secret ingredients of paella this Spanish paprika is available in Mexican, Latin American and specialty food shops. Smoked, sweet pimentón is the favourite for paella but there are other varieties available. Use regular paprika if you cannot find this but over time it is worth the investment.
The Saffron – Saffron threads are hand picked from the purple crocus flower thus the high price. It is often referred to as the most expensive spice in the world. However, only a few threads of saffron added to any dish imparts a unique aroma and flavour, followed by a taste and aroma that does not disappoint.
The Additions – Paella is a rice dish and can include seafood, meat and vegetables. The combination can be varied to suit your taste. Try three or four foods at first, resisting the urge to include so many foods you overwhelm the taste of the dish.
My favourite paella contains chicken, chorizo sausage, shrimp and mussels or sometimes chorizo sausage, red peppers, green beans and artichoke hearts. I made a mistake making my grocery list and the result is the seafood version you see in this photo.
If you like the idea of a Gourmet Dinner Club evening here is my Spanish menu. Let me know in the comments below how this turned out.
If you love mussels try:
|¼ tsp saffron threads|
|8 oz bottle clam juice|
|4-5 cups GF chicken stock|
|MEAT AND VEGETABLES (optional, see recipe description)|
|1 Tbsp olive oil|
|1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in chunks|
|1 GF chorizo sausage, sliced|
|½ red pepper, chopped|
|¼ cup olive oil|
|1 medium onion, grated in large holes of a box grater|
|3 tomatoes halved and grated in large holes of a box grater to measure 1¼ cups juicy tomato pulp|
|8 cloves garlic, 4 finely chopped and 4 left whole|
|½ tsp pimentón (Spanish paprika)|
|¼ tsp salt|
|1¾ cups arborio rice or Spanish bomba rice|
|12-18 shrimp, peeled|
|½ cup frozen peas|
|Chopped fresh parsley, lemon slices or wedges|
- SAFFRON-CLAM BROTH
- In a small frying pan toast the saffron until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Remove from heat and cool.
- In a saucepan combine clam juice and chicken stock, bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside. Crush toasted saffron onto the clam juice and chicken stock. Set aside to infuse while preparing paella.
- MEAT AND VEGETABLES (if using)
- Heat paella pan over medium high heat. Add oil and sauté chicken and sausage for 5 minutes. Add red pepper and continue to sauté mixture until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Set aside until needed.
- Set paella pan or extra large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil. When hot add the onion, stirring occasionally until it softens and darkens slightly, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the tomato pulp, chopped and whole garlic, paprika and salt. Gently cook the mixture in the center of the pan stirring frequently, until it becomes dark red and thick, 15-20 minutes. Turn the pan often to ensure even cooking. If it starts to stick, deglaze by adding a little water and scraping the pan.
- When the sofrito is done, add the rice to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to combine it with the sofrito, 1-2 minutes. Spread the rice evenly in the pan. Increase the heat to high and slowly pour the clam/chicken broth over the rice being careful to leave the rice in an even layer. From this point on, do not stir the rice. Bring to a boil and adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, moving the pan as needed so it bubbles all the way to the edges. Simmer vigorously until the rice appears at the level of the broth, about 8 minutes.
- Evenly arrange the shrimp and mussels in the pan, pushing them into the rice. Lower the heat so the broth maintains a moderate simmer and cook for about 5 minutes until shrimp is pink, scallops are cooked and mussels are opened.
- MEAT AND ADDITIONS
- Add the peas.
- If using, add the cooked chicken, sausage and red pepper.
- Continue simmering until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender but still firm (taste a few grains on the top layer), about 5 more minutes. The rice needs to simmer for about 18 minutes total. Taste to ensure the rice is cooked and adjust seasoning to taste.
- If at any point the broth seems to be evaporating too quickly, reduce the heat slightly, cover loosely with sheets of foil, or add a little more broth or water, ¼ cup at a time as needed.
- Sprinkle paella with chopped parsley and garnish with lemon. Serve immediately.