Spain’s Gift to Gastronomy is an amazingly adaptable dish that belongs on your summer table.
Yes, there is an official version of this beautiful dish. But we discovered you can pretty much make paella from whatever you want. The key is the round-grained rice called “Bomba”, saffron, and a large paella pan. While not absolutely necessary, this 26-incher makes a dish that can be put in the middle of the dinner table. So everyone can help themselves. Ours contained Spanish Chorizo sausage, chicken, shrimp, and little neck clams. For vegetables, onions, roasted red peppers, garlic, tomato paste, and lots of defrosted baby peas were added right at the end. You can swap out Chicken for Pork or Mussels for Little Necks. The thing that you really can’t replace is the “Bomba” Rice. We found ours at Mercado Little Spain, Chef and Humanitarian José Andrés’ place in Hudson Yards. You’ll feel like a philanthropist ordering Rice, Chorizo, and Saffron—even the pan– by mail. Go to https://shop.littlespain.com/spanish-pantry/
We call it Spanish Paella. In Spain, it’s Paella valenciana
While the world may call it Spanish Paella, the Spanish narrow it down to where it was created, in Valencia. Paella takes its name not from its ingredients but from the wide, shallow pan it’s made in. Paella means ‘Frying Pan” in Valencia’s regional dialect. And while the dish may have ancient roots, its modern version can be traced back to the mid-1800s next to a lagoon outside the Mediterranean coastal city. The original recipe was made with “Bomba” rice, it was a dish containing green beans, rabbit, chicken, and sometimes duck cooked in olive oil and then chicken stock. The seafood version, called Paella de marisco, replaces meat with seafood and leaves out the green vegetables. And there’s a version called Paella Mixta which combines meat, seafood, vegetables, and sometimes beans with the traditional rice. This one’s closest to today’s recipe.
You can cook your Paella on the stovetop, in the oven, or on an outdoor grill.
The first paellas in Valencia were made for lunch for rice farmers and their helpers. They’d gather what was available around them –tomatoes, onions, snails, rabbits, or ducks—and cook their paella over an open fire. This technique produced soccarat, a layer of roasted rice on the bottom of the pan. This was highly desirable as long as it wasn’t scorched. Home cooks can achieve it if cooking paella over an open flame or on a grill. The oven-baked method we used had none. Our giant paella pan was too big for us to cook it on the stovetop. We used a Dutch oven to cook and combine ingredients, arranged them in our paella pan, and baked them in the oven. Ours may not have been the most authentic of paellas but that didn’t stop our guests from devouring pretty much all of it. Here’s the recipe:
Dinner Party Paella
Our take on a traditional Spanish Paella is very easy, very adaptable and whole lot of fun at the dinner table
- 3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Large Spanish Onion, diced
- 5 cloves of Garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. Tomato Paste
- 2 cups Roasted Red Peppers, diced (1 jar)
- 3 links Spanish Chorizo Sausage sliced
- 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs cut into 1.5-inch pieces
- 1 Cup Dry White Wine
- 32 oz. (4 cups) Chicken Stock --Store Bought or Homemade
- 1 large pinch of dried Saffron
- 2 dried Bay Leaves (remove before serving)
- Juice of 1 whole Lemon
- 1.1 lbs (.5 K) Bomba Rice
- 1.5 lbs Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1.5 lbs Little neck clams, well-washed
- 2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Step 2 You can use your paella pan throughout. However, we prepped everything in our Dutch Oven then transferred the first eleven ingredients to the paella pan then added the shrimp and littleneck clams.
- Step 3 Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the Chicken thighs to the pan and cook them until they are nicely browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Now, add the onions to the same pot and cook until translucent–about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook a further 2 minutes.
- Step 4 Cook the chorizo until it is very brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and the tomato paste and stir until the mixture turns dark red, in about a minute. Add the rice and stir well to combine.
- Step 5 Pour in the wine and the broth and stir vigorously. Add the saffron and the bay leaves, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Step 6 If you are using a Dutch oven, transfer all the ingredients to the paella pan.
- Step 7 Nestle the shrimp and the littlenecks into the pan.
- Step 8 Bake the paella, uncovered until the rice is cooked and the clams open. This can take 22 to 30 minutes. Check frequently.
- Step 9 Gently stir in or scatter the peas on top. Season with Salt and Pepper. Serve.