How to make the Perfect Paella
Paella is a delicious rice based dish named for the pan used to create the meal. A paella pan is overly wide to provide a large surface area for cooking but not necessarily very deep. The roots of paella are indisputably from Spain, particularly Valencia, and though food history is difficult to verify, it seems this dish does have variations to include different proteins such as beef or chicken as well as seafood but always, always, always, rice. Another defining element of the dish is the rice is not stirred to allow it to develop a crisp crust rather than the constant stirring and creaminess associated with other rice dishes like risotto.
The recipe below is a guideline. Just as stews, soups, and pasta dishes can change according to your preferences or even what is already on hand, paella is amazingly adaptable. Variations in the protein can include chicken, seafood like shrimp, clams, mussels, lobster or crab meat, or chunks of fish like cod, sausage, ground pork or chorizo, beef, and even kielbasa. Never let anyone tell you your recipe is not authentic since the original paella is rumored to include rabbit or snails, so if you want to use chorizo or kielbasa – do it!
Vegetarian versions featuring mushrooms or beans are equally flavorful and the perfect choice for Meatless Monday. The cooking liquid can also be adjusted to include clam juice, seafood broth, vegetable or chicken stock or a combination of all of the above (beef broth or stock may overpower the light flavor of the paella ingredients making it one to avoid).
Land and Sea Paella with Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2” pieces, coated in flour
- 1 pound of ground sausage
- 1 pound of medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup minced onions
- 1 diced celery stalk
- 1 each small-sized sweet red and green bell peppers, cut into small chunks
- 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 3 cups of white rice – short grain or Arborio
- 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron or saffron threads
- 6 cups of liquid (chicken stock, vegetable, or seafood broth)
- Finely chopped parsley and lemon wedges for garnish (optional)
- Place the ground sausage in a large diameter frying pan over medium heat.
- Add the flour coated chicken. Cook until the chicken is golden and firm.
- Remove sausage and chicken from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, combine olive oil, onion, celery, and peppers – season with salt and pepper and allow to cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Stir in canned tomatoes and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Combine saffron with ¼ cup of liquid before adding to the mixture.
- Pour in remaining stock.
- Add rice and stir.
- Once the liquid is simmering, nestle in the chicken, sausage, and shrimp.
- Do not stir.
- Allow to cook on low-medium heat with lid, until the liquid is absorbed.
- Let the paella rest off of the heat for a few minutes before serving.
- Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
- Add sliced green olives or capers if desired.
- Substitute ¼ teaspoon each of paprika and turmeric for the saffron.
- If bone in chicken is desired, cook in the same pan ahead of time, then remove and reserve. Add in step #9.
The key elements of paella are to use a wide pan to allow for the most possible surface area during cooking, resist stirring once the rice is added and let a bit of crust develop and swap out meats and seafood based on the ones you enjoy the most. Paella is great for all seasons, climates, parties or holidays, weekdays, weekends and anytime you want to feel Fed Well! Enjoy!