Olé! Today, I am returning to my Spanish roots with an enchanting and delicious Paella Valenciana. With so many different flavors and influences, it has so much to offer those with the privilege of enjoying it. Every herb and spice plays a valuable role; the saffron, paprika, oregano, and rosemary all make a mark leaving you excited for what the next bite will bring. Paella, Spain’s national dish and an international favorite, has many versions. Although I usually make the dish using solely seafood, I decided to take a more traditional approach for this occasion. This recipe calls for a mixed paella with both chicken and seafood. The chicken’s role is that of a flavor enhancer as it dramatically adds character to the dish. Nevertheless, I have incorporated a few nontraditional ingredients into the recipe to satisfy my family’s international palate.
I also highly recommend making this dish with my homemade sofrito inspired by my grandmother’s herb and vegetable sauce. You can find a simplified recipe in the directions.
Enjoy, and do not forget to scrape off one of the most valuable parts of the dish, “el pegao,” the crispy rice left over at the bottom of the pan, for this is where some of the most valuable flavors are collected. Let the holidays begin!
INGREDIENTS/ SERVES 4
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, and cut into medium chunks
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
1 medium onion
4 garlic cloves
1/2 a bunch of cilantro or 1/2 pressed cup
2 cups (300 g) medium-grain Spanish rice, such as Bomba
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons smoked or sweet paprika (see notes)
generous pinch of saffron soaked in 2 teaspoons of hot water (see notes)
generous pinch of cumin
generous pinch of coriander
4 cups (940 g) of low sodium seafood or chicken stock (see notes)
fresh ground pepper
1/2 can chopped tomatoes (2/3 cup, 200 g)
2/3 cup (100 g) green peas
8 squid tubes, cut into rings
15 mussels, cleaned and scrubbed
15 jumbo shrimp, cleaned and peeled
1 rosemary sprig
garnish with parsley and lemon wedges
- Soak a generous pinch of saffron, about 1/2 teaspoon or so in 2 teaspoons of hot (not boiling) water for at least 30 minutes, optional.
- In a food processor, combine your yellow and red pepper, onion, garlic, and cilantro, and blitz until finely chopped, but not puréed. This is your quick sofrito mixture. Set aside.
- Set a large and shallow skillet over medium-high heat. Once it has heated, drizzle with olive oil and add your chicken pieces. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 15 minutes or until the chicken becomes golden brown in color, stirring occasionally.
- Add your sofrito mix to the pan, and stir for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden.
- Add your rice, oregano, saffron with its water, spices, and tomatoes to the pan and stir all of the ingredients together. Pour in your stock/water into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. (I used 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.) Leave to cook uncovered for about 15 minutes over medium heat without stirring. If the rice becomes dry, add another 1/2 cup (115 g) or so of boiling water/stock to the pan.
- Once the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, press your seafood into the rice, decoratively if you wish. Scatter the peas over the top and place a sprig of rosemary on the middle or side of the pan. Cover and leave to cook for about 10 minutes.
- Taste the rice to make sure it as cooked to your liking.
Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges and serve immediately. Olé!
- Paella is not paella without a good quality saffron. I recommend using Spanish, Kashmiri, or Iranian saffron. To get the most out of this valuable spice, place the saffron inside a folded piece of aluminum foil and heat on a skillet for about 5 seconds on each side. Then, leave to soak in 2 teaspoons of hot water for about half an hour. This is for enhanced flavor, but you may, of course, use the saffron as it comes.
- Use smoked paprika for a medium-spicy dish and sweet paprika for mild heat. I used smoked paprika.
- If you are not able to find mussels that are already scrubbed, it is very simple to clean them at home. Over running water, scrub the mussel shells with a metal sponge and cut any visible threads with a knife. This should only take a few seconds per shell.
- If you do not have seafood or chicken broth, you can make your own at home by simmering your shrimp and mussels in a pot of lightly salted boiling water for 3 minutes.
- You may add other ingredients such as recao and culantro to your sofrito if you have them.
- It is recommended to use a stainless-steel paella pan for this dish as they are large, wide, and shallow. This allows the rice to spread out and cook thoroughly while absorbing the flavors. As I didn’t have one, I used a large and wide nonstick pan. It also worked out fine.
- If Spanish rice is unavailable to you, use another short grain. Try to avoid using long grains as they do not absorb as much liquid.