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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Monday, March 27, 2006

food blog: american paella for 4

i love paella. i order it whenever i can find it on the menu. i've had spanish paellas, i've had peruvian/chilean paellas. i've had inspired ones, and mediocre. and even the worst one i've ever eaten was damned good.
so i decided it was time for me to add paella to my cooking skillset.
so where do you find the stuff to make a killer paella? i had a little help. there is a great spanish food/gadget store in berkeley called the Spanish Table.
i bought my paella pan there, and the paella rice, and the spanish chorizo, the saffron, the cookbook. wait a minute. do you really need all of that to make a really good paella? not really, but it helps.
you can use mexican chorizo, and saffron is available in almost every supermarket in the spice section. the rice, well, i wouldn't use the classic american long grain calrose rice. if you can't get paella rice, rissoto rice (arborio) would work well. it needs to be harder than standard long grain. if you don't use a harder rice, the dish will end up being a paste. no good. the seafood is up to you to find anyway. and while a paella pan is nice to have, any oven proof saute pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients will work fine. as a matter of fact, a cast iron skillet would be an ideal pan for this.

the following is my "modified from the basic paella recipe" recipe from the Spanish Table. the dish takes around an hour to make, from prep through pulling from the oven. time well spent, if you ask me

the list of ingredients is per person serving, unless otherwise noted
  • 1/2 cup paella rice per serving
  • 1 cup liquid per serving. this was a total of 4 cups for this dish, consisting of 1/2 cup white wine for the saffron (and a glass for the cook), 8 oz. clam juice, and the rest chicken stock.
  • 1 clove garlic per serving, minced. who am i kidding. this is a 4 serving dish, and i used 7 cloves. and it was GOOD!
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion. for 4, i just used one whole red onion.
  • 2 or 3 tiger prawns or any large shrimp, shelled and deveined (1/2 pound, about 10 was perfect for 4 servings)
  • 2 or 3 clams
  • 1 chicken thigh. i used boneless, skinless ones, because quite frankly i hate rubbery chicken skin. and this is a sure fire way to get rubbery chicken skin, by simmering for 1/2 an hour
  • 1/2 stick chorizo sliced into thin rounds for the whole dish, about 8 ounces
  • pinch of saffron. the cookbooks all say around 5 strands per serving. i used a couple good sized pinches. see the photo below for what was perfect for 4 servings
  • 1/4 tomato, grated into the pan at the appropriate time, discarding the extra skin left over when you are done using your box grater
  • 2 tbs olive oil. the goal is to completely cover the bottom of your pan with olive oil. the most common mistake folks make when preparing paella is to skimp on the olive oil. this is spanish cooking. the spaniards use olive oil like the italians.
  • 3 or 4 spanish olives, chopped. or do like i did and use kalamata olives, which gave this dish a bit of a different twist. a good different.

  • remember, unless otherwise noted, these proportions are per serving

the following is my modified from the basic paella recipe from the spanish table.

From the writer of one of the cookbooks i studied while dreaming this concoction up:
Paella is cooked in a pn by adding ingredients progressively and allowing their flavors to merge and mingle and be absorbed into the rice. Ingredients are never removed once they are added. Exception: when using a pan slightly beyond its capacity, i remove the chicken pieces and keep them warm until everything else is in the pan and thin i put them back on top where they can float on the surface, rising slightly above the rim of the pan
not to be a copycat, but ME TOO ME TOO. as you will see i had to remove the chicken for a little while until the rest of the ingredients were aboard.

first of all, assemble the ingredients, and preheat the oven to around 350 deg F NOTE : if your pan is small enough,or your heat source big enough to heat the entire pan bottom, skip all references to the oven. spaniards think the crusty layer on the bottom from applying direct heat the entire time is the best part of the paella. my stove burner wasn't big enough, so after 10 minutes on the stove, into the oven it went. in any case, never stir the paella after the first 10 minutes once boiling starts. that's right, just leave it alone, and try like the dickens to resist the urge to stir.
click images for larger version

and then, pour a glass of the white wine you will be cooking with, and perform a quality assurance test. tonight's selection was a light and fruity pinot grigio from a local winery a couple of miles from my house. check out their offerings at Wooden Valley. it was a good choice, even if i'm not usually a pinot grigio drinker.
wooden valley

pour the oil in the pan, and heat it to almost the smoke point. toss in the chicken, and brown on all sides. you don't need to worry about cooking it through, because it's going to be simmering for a while. when the chicken is browned, add the onion and garlic, and saute until soft and translucent, one or two minutes at most. turn the heat down to around a medium/medium high at this point, otherwise the aromatics will scorch. nasty.

next, add the chorizo, and cook until it starts to render a little

while the chorizo is cooking, add the saffron to a small pot, and warm on low, just until you can smell the saffron.

then add 1/2 cup of wine, and bring to a boil. once the wine boils, turn off the heat and let the saffron steep until needed. beautiful color, saffron.

when the chorizo is ready, toss in the rice, and stir to coat with the oil. let the rice cook like this for a couple of minutes at most. it's really important that the rice is coated with oil, and is given a chance to absorb a little of the juices in the pan. add the liquids, including the saffron, and turn up the heat to high. bring the liquids to a boil. grate the tomato right into the pan, and stir. NOTE: if using a spring loaded pair of tongs, be sure to keep the tongs locked closed. DO NOT forget to do that and then place the tongs in the pan. SPROING means a big cleanup of the kitchen. i'm just saying...
once the liquids are boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer. i found that i needed to pull the chicken out at this point, because the pan was too full. toss in the clams, hinge side down once the liquids are boiling. if they don't open in a few minutes, pull them and toss in the garbage. stir often during the first 5 to 10 minutes.

when the dish has been simmered for about 10 minutes, the rice should have absorbed enough liquid that you can put the chicken back in, and toss the prawns/shrimp on top. bury the prawns a little into the liquid.
getting there

place the pan in the oven for 20 minutes. at the 10 minute point, i turned the prawns over. do not stir the dish after the first 10 minutes.

remove the dish, and cover loosely with foil for about 15 minutes. this is what my paella looked like:

and of course, the whole reason i made it was for the foodgasm my body experienced while eating this dish.

i hope you try this dish. it's pretty easy and very very tasty.

as always, if you try this recipe, or it inspires you to try something different, please let me know how it turned out. i'm always looking for fresh and clever ideas to improve my own cooking skills and recipes.

for a complete list of my online recipes, follow the link here

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Anonymous Alison said...

That looks really good.

I haven't eaten paella since...

well, never mind. It wasn't pretty. ;-)

3/28/06, 5:00 AM  
Blogger Va Beach Herb said...


This looks terrific! I have a shellfish allergy or I would definitely be all over this stuff. BTW, I finally made your saffron rice, orange chicken recipe for my wife. She loved it. Thanks for the recipe.

3/28/06, 6:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had some really good paella in Cartagena a few years ago. Yours looks great, except for those giant bugs ("prawns") in the next-to-last picture. 8)

First recipe I plan to try is the one with chicken and Spanish olives....

RM1(SS) (ret)

3/29/06, 4:27 PM  
Blogger bothenook said...

hey herb, it is pretty good stuff isn't it?
and RM1(SS), Cartagena was out of my travel area, but i can imagine how good it was, made by folks that make hundreds, if not thousands, a year.
and for the folks wondering about the recipe herb and RM1(SS) are talking about, it is at this link

3/29/06, 4:53 PM  
Blogger David said...

OK, gotta make this... might take a while to locate "paella rice" here in America's Third World County™... might have to grow my own. *heh* Nah. I'll ask the colony of "undocumented workers" down the road where to get some. Or at least some rice that'll do. ;-) Luckily, I have most of the ingredients and untensils, except for the chorizo, and I guess I can ask around in that same lil colony for directions to some decent Mexican chorizo, eh?

Gonna have some fine eating outa this. Thanks!

4/2/06, 9:07 AM  
Blogger lol said...

No, no, no, no, sacrilegio.

12/29/07, 6:47 PM  
Blogger bothenook said...

if it tastes good, it's not sacrilege

5/9/09, 4:22 PM  

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