Paella

Paella is a delicious Spanish dish of saffron-flavored rice and a variety of meats and shellfish. It is definitely impressive, and might be intimidating to make at home, but this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen somewhat simplifies the process while staying true to the dish’s heritage. No need for a paella pan for this recipe. You can use a Dutch oven that is 11 to 12 inches in diameter with at least a 6-quart capacity. Soccarat is a layer of crusty browned rice that forms in a traditional paella pan, but does not traditionally develop in this recipe because most of the cooking is done in the oven. If you would like to develop a soccarat (trust me, you do) make sure to follow step 5. If you prefer, you can skip this step and proceed to step 6.

from: The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook
serves: 6

1 pound extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per lb.) peeled & deveined
salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra as needed
8-9 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 generous tablespoons)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 4 thighs) trimmed and halved crosswise
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut pole to pole into 1/2 inch wide strips
8 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the bias (dry-cured is recommended, but fresh chorizo is an acceptable substitute)
1 medium onion, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, minced, and drained again
2 cups Valencia rice (if you can’t find Valencia, you can use Arborio rice)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1 bay leaf
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

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1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic in a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set aside.

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2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the pepper strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin begins to blister and turn spotty black, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the pepper to a small plate and set aside.

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3. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the now-empty pot; heat the oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer; cook, without moving the pieces, until browned, about 3 minutes.

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Turn the pieces and brown on the second side, about 3 minutes longer; transfer the chicken to a medium bowl. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chorizo to the pot; cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned and the fat begins to render, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to the bowl with the chicken and set aside.

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4. Add enough oil to the fat in the Dutch oven to equal 2 tablespoons; heat over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes; stir in the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes; cook until the mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the grains are well coated with the tomato mixture, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return the chicken and chorizo to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven; cook until the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid, about 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven (make sure to close the oven door to retain heat). Uncover the pot; scatter the shrimp over the rice, insert the mussels, hinged side down, into the rice (so they stand upright), arrange the bell pepper strips in a pinwheel pattern, and scatter the peas over top. Cover and return to the oven; cook until shrimp are opaque and the mussels have opened, 10 to 12 minutes.

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5. (Optional Soccarat step) Set the Dutch oven, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating the pot 180 degrees after about 2 minutes for even browning.

6. Let the paella stand, covered, for about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened and the bay leaf, if it can be easily removed. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve, passing the lemon wedges separately.

* Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the finished product, the photo above was taken before the mussels opened. However, it was beautiful to look at!

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