Paella (pronounced pie-ay-a) is not only a delicious dish to eat but the history of it is quite fascinating. First of all, it is a Spanish dish consisting of rice and a variety of vegetables and meats and typically seasoned with saffron. However, depending on what part of Spain paella is made, the recipe can vary. Even though this picture of paella can be a bit intimidating, it truly is a fast, simple process.
Paella is said to be a perfect union between two, different cultures- thanking the Romans for the pan and the Arabs who brought the rice. There are two, main versions of paella: the Valencian (which is pictured above) and the seafood and mixed paella. The American version of paella is jambalaya- something I am very familiar with since I am from Louisiana. If you’ve ever eaten and enjoyed jambalaya, you will most certainly love this Spanish, traditional dish. Just like jamabalaya, paella feeds a large group of people at one time.
What makes paella be paella is the pan it is cooked in. The traditional pan is round, very flat and not very deep- about thumb deep- to ensure that the rice has the ability to make contact with the bottom of the pan during the cooking process. What does often times vary is the length of the pan which can be 12 inches to several feet in diameter. Remember, feeding lots of people at one time is the original idea of paella. Since the pan is the most important part of cooking paella, you can’t not have it. Prices do vary depending on brands and sizes, but a couple inexpensive brands I would recommend are from Sur La Table (15″ for $30) and Williams-Sonoma (17″ for $35).
This recipe is all about mise en place– having everything “in it’s place.” It’s kind of like stir frying where you simply throw ingredients together and cook it quickly, but you need to have all of the vegetables and meats prepped prior to production. You can make any version of paella you would like, but the process remains the same. For this recipe you will need:
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, 1.5″ chunks, seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 pound rabbit, bone-in, cut into small pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
1.5 tsp smoked, sweet Spanish paprika
6 garlic cloves, minced
32 ounce chicken stock
Pinch of Saffron
2.5 oz olive oil
6 oz. Spanish chorizo, 1.5″ pieces
2 oz green beans, trimmed, 1.5″ lengths
3 oz. cooked butter or baby lima beans
6 oz. frozen artichokes, thawed
3 oz. tomato sauce
14 oz. Aborio or any other short-grained rice
3 oz. roasted red bell peppers, small dice
Whew! I know, it’s a long list, but once you have it all prepared and ready to go, you will be eating paella in no time!
First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large pot, add the chicken stock and saffron and bring to a simmer. This mixture must be hot when adding to the rest of the ingredients. Then, add half of the olive oil to the middle of the paella pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is very hot and almost smoking, add the seasoned chicken and rabbit and sauté until browned. Push all of the meat to one side of the pan. Add the green beans, baby beans, and artichokes; toss until vegetables begin to take on some color, 5 minutes. Move to the side of the pan. Add the chorizo and cook for 2 minutes; move to side of the pan. Add the remaining oil to the center of the pan and add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce to the center of the pan, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring until the tomato is reduced, 5 to 6 minutes.
Toss the tomato mixture with the meat and vegetables, add the paprika and cayenne, and stir to combine. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat. Using a ladle, add the hot stock until the stock is about 1 inch over the rice. Cook over medium low heat until the cooking liquid is almost level with the rice, about 6-8 minutes. Shake, move and rotate the pan so the liquid cooks evenly. If the liquid is being absorbed too quickly, simply add more stock. (This is a braising process- similar to risotto.)
Transfer the paella pan to the oven and bake until the rice is tender but still al dente, about 15-20 minutes. Check the rice and add more stock if necessary. Once the rice is tender, remove the pan from the oven and cover with aluminum foil, let stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let stand for 10 minutes; flavor will continue to develop as it rests. Garnish with roasted peppers and serve.
Eating traditional foods from different cultures is so much fun! Disfrutar! (Translation: Enjoy! in Spanish)