I have been thinking a lot lately about the trip we took to France and Spain last October. We had never been to Spain before, but we absolutely feel in love with the places we saw! Barcelona was my favorite spot, but Valencia is where I had what I would consider to be authentic paella.
Now, I know there are probably as many versions of paella as Imelda Marcos has shoes. Paella can be prepared many ways and it depends on where you are as to what you are going to get! I saw paella cooked with rice and with pasta (think spaghetti). With pasta it is called fideua. That is traditionally served in Barcelona. Both versions (rice and pasta) can be prepared with pork, chicken and sausage as well as all types of fish and seafood. Some dishes combine a little of each.
I do have to say that they know to serve the stuff up right in Barcelona! We saw the beginnings of a major paella party cranking up outside the Cathedral Sagrada Familia when we were visiting. Here is a picture of what happens when they get to whipping up a big ole batch of the stuff!
I personally prefer the chicken and shrimp version with rice (Valencian paella). I opt out of the whole other seafood thing because you are never really sure what you are going to get (especially when you do not understand much Spanish). I saw some really creepy looking fish in those markets in Spain and the last thing I wanted was some of that stuff in my paella. They call certain seafood “monsters” for a reason! 😉
I have a recipe for paella that I loved to cook before I went to Spain. It was as good as anything I had here in the states and frankly, it was pretty easy and quick. Well, of course, that trip ruined things for me, so now, I prefer the really long version and it is sooooo worth it! That recipe I was using just does not have the depth of flavors that this more authentic version has. This new recipe tastes about as close as I can get to what I had in Valencia. I have made it a few times and it always turn out perfect.
The paella I had in Valencia had chicken and shrimp and some chorizo. This recipe I have found has the same ingredients. My hubby would rather have more seafood than what I care for and since I will not allow “monsters” in my food or anything resembling them, I throw a few Cherrystone Clams in for his benefit!
Not only is this paella authentic…we ate at traditional Spanish dining hours Saturday night! I was languishing on our back deck, enjoying the warm temperatures and a glass of wine with my hubby when I suddenly realized I needed to marinate the chicken and shrimp. Yikes! Dinner at 10 pm. When you plan to make this dish, be sure to plan ahead!
This recipe is adapted from Things Cooks Love by Marie Simmons (the book is available at Sur La Table – my hangout in the ATL)
Chicken, Shrimp, and Chorizo Paella
8 bone-in chicken thighs, or 1 large chicken cut into 10 pieces (cut the breast in half, so everything cooks evenly)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
18 large shrimp, peeled, with shells reserved, and deveined (I used 1 lb.)
10 Cherrystone clams
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, bruised, plus 2 tsp. minced
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary, plus sprigs for garnish (if you wish)
5-6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I use Swanson’s Organic)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. saffron threads
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
2 (3-oz.) chorizos, casings removed and cut into 1/4 dice (Spanish chorizo if possible, which is cured, not fresh)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can diced tomatoes with the juices
1 1/2 cups Spanish rice (medium grain)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 lg. lemon, cut into 6-8 wedges, for garnish
1. Generously sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a large bowl or large resealable plastic bag. Add the shrimp, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the bruised garlic, and the chopped rosemary. Cover the bowl, or seal the bag, and refrigerate 2 hours or up to overnight.
2. In an 2 1/2 to 3 quart saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and cover to keep hot.
3. in a 10-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until they turn dark red. Add 1 tsp. of the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Add the shrimp mixture to the chicken broth, bring to a simmer, re-cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Set a strainer over a clean saucepan and strain the broth. Discard the shells. Keep broth warm over low heat.
4. Crush the saffron in a mortar with a pestle, or place in a small cup and crush with the back of a spoon. Transfer to a small bowl and add a ladleful of the simmering broth. Cover and let stand until ready to use.
5. When ready to cook the paella, remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and place them on a plate. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-14 inch paella pan (set over 2 burners if necessary) or an extra-large skillet over medium heat until hot enough to sizzle the chicken. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook the other side for 5 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Return the chicken to a plate. *A splatter screen comes in handy for this sauteing!
6. Add the bell pepper, onion, chorizos, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are browned.
Add the paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until the juices boil off and the tomato is dry. Add the rice and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the chicken broth to a boil and pour 4 cups of it over the rice. Add the reserved broth (with saffron) and stir into the other ingredients. Arrange the chicken pieces around the outer edges of the pan.
7. Cook uncovered over medium heat, without stirring, for 15 minutes, or until most of the broth has been absorbed by the rice. Taste the rice and add more salt if needed.
8. Tuck the shrimp down into the partially cooked rice, concentrating them in the center area of the pan. Ladle 1 cup of the simmering broth over the rice and cook 5 minutes more. As the rice cooks, it will continue to absorb the broth. Add more broth as needed, tasting the rice each time. It should be tender, but firm. If you run our of broth before the rice is ready, use boiling water.
9. Sprinkle the peas on top. Tuck the clams into the rice and the broth. Lay a piece of extra-wide aluminum foil over the paella for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove from the heat and let the paella stand covered for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
When you serve your paella, you should have a browned bottom that looks like this. No, you have not burned your paella! This is called socarrat and this just means you have properly prepared your dish. You actually want the rice and all the yummy juices to do this!
The important things you get to bring home with you from vacations are your memories, your photos, and perhaps some souvenirs. I always enjoy coming home and trying to recreate some of the fabulous dishes I had while I was traveling!