I made Paella for the first time Saturday night with great results. I fell in love with Paella the first time I tasted it more than 20 years ago in San Francisco and order it out every chance I get which, unfortunately, isn’t very often. Phoenix is a great place for Mexican, not Spanish, food.
I’m not sure what took me so long to make my own Paella. I guess I thought it was complicated and I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I go to great lengths to avoid recipes that seem overly involved.
But that all changed for me recently as I was reading The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks, where the author wrote, “Paella sounds complicated, but it’s just a casserole that originated as a poor fisherman’s supper designed to use of scraps left in the nets. Make it once and then adapt the technique to make a one-pot dish that’s simple or extravagant based on what you’ve got on hand. Just keep intact the base aromatics known as the sofrito: onions, garlic, and tomatoes.”
With that short explanation I felt compelled to give it a go. Of course me being me, I did a little more research, comparing and contrasting recipes, and decided to combine the best of Kathleen’s recipe for Paella Valenciana with Mark Bittman’s recipe for The Simplest Paella from How to Cook Everything, where he provides details for finishing it in the oven.
Since it was a celebration I made it with chicken, shrimp, Spanish chorizo, and asparagus. Everyone thought it was delicious. Now that I’ve made it once, I can’t wait to try it again. Maybe it should become a birthday tradition?
- 1 quart chicken stock
- Pinch of saffron threads (about ⅛ teaspoon,)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (4 ounces each), cut in half if large
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped (I used yellow, but any color would work)
- 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 heaping teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
- 2 cups uncooked short- or medium-grain rice (such as paella rice or Arborio)
- 8 ounces Spanish chorizo (or other smoked or cooked sausage), cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 pound medium-size shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into ½-inch chunks
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
- 1 large handful of slender stalks of fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 2 ounces diced pimento
- 2 or 3 lemons, cut into wedges, for serving
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Meanwhile, heat the stock and saffron in a small saucepan.
- Put the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken thighs and cook, until well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the onion, garlic and green pepper and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves and paprika and cook another 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s coated, another 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully add the stock and stir just until combined. Add the chicken and chorizo, stirring to combine.
- Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and let it bake, undisturbed for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rice is dry and just barely tender. If the rice appears too dry, but still isn’t quite done, add a little more stock or water and bake another 5 minutes.
- When the rice is ready, add the shrimp, pressing them into the hot rice and then sprinkle on the asparagus, peas and pimentos. Place back in the oven and cook another 10 minutes, until the shrimp is done.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley. If you like, put the pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.
- Remove the bay leaves.
- Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
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