Seafood or Mixed Paella
My dream trip for our anniversary next year is to venture off to the romantic, brilliantly colorful and sensual country of Spain, the home of Seafood Paella, which is to me, a considerable part of the allure of this beautiful country.
What started out as a humble beginning of poor farm laborers who used leftover findings like tomatoes, onions and even snails, along with rice cooked over an over fire in the fields, has now become a hard-to-find and often expensive dish prized on the menu at fine eateries.
Because it most certainly is fine.
It’s unsure of where the “authentic” beginnings of paella started, but it probably originated in the Valencia area of Spain and began with duck or rabbit, or yes, even snails. This rustic dish has evolved over time to over 200 types of paella…my favorite being Seafood Paella or Mixed Paella (a mix of land and seafood meats).
You don’t need a paella pan to make paella, however it is certainly beneficial, as the actual name “paella” means “pan” in old world French. A wide flatter pan allows the rice to spread out thinner and develop the socarrat or a layer of crispy rice on the bottom of the pan. The wider the pan, the more socarrat you’re going to get.
And the socarrat is life my friends. Pure goodness.
Traditionally paella is cooked over an open flame over a metal tripod of sorts. The flames lick around the edges of the pan and the resulting smoked-infused flavor is amazing!
However, since most of us don’t have a metal tripod hanging around in our backyard, you can substitute an iron skillet or other grill-safe pan (at least 13 inches or larger) and sizzle your paella on your grill or stove. We happen to have a grate for our fire-pit that nicely suits making paella, so we do it often and it works really well.
Here I’ve made a mixed paella using chicken thighs, smoked sausage and mixed seafood. We typically use a Spanish Chorizo (the hard variety not the Mexican mushy kind) but we cooked this for my Mother-In-Law for Mother’s Day and she asked for the smoked instead.
You can give or take-away any of the protein ingredients if you like. Omit the mussels and nestle in some scallops instead, just make sure to adjust your cooking times by looking them up or reading off the package. We’ve even been known to tuck in a couple of lobster tails at times when we’re feeling especially indulgent.
I wouldn’t advise skipping the saffron, although it can be a tad pricey, depending where you get it. And when looking for rice, try to find a short-grain, low-starch rice like arborio rice (the rice often used for risotto). If you’re fortunate enough to find it, use bomba or Calasparra rice or splurge and order some online if you don’t live in Spain.
If I’ve scared you off by now, I beg you to just give this a try. It’s such a fun community thing to do with your beloved friends or family. And when it’s done…you can either do like the Spaniards do and set it onto the middle of your table and dive right into it with forks and spoons, or let everyone grab a portion onto a plate.
It’s so exotic and satisfying. You’ll want to do it again and again.
Or Bon Appetit!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ small sweet onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 4 ounces spanish chorizo, sliced
- one (15 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- ¼ cup white wine
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 small skinless chicken thighs or breast
- 1 t. Spanish smoked paprika
- 1 t. salt
- ¼ t. saffron
- 1 c. frozen peas
- 16 ounces fresh seafood (we used 12 each mussels, clams and jumbo shrimp)
- lemon wedges for garnish
- fresh chopped parsley, for serving
- Place a very large cast iron skillet or paella pan (it should be at least a 12 inch circle or oval skillet) on the grill
- Allow the skillet to heat with the grill.
- Once the skillet is hot, add the olive oil, onion, red pepper and garlic.
- Cook 5 minutes or so just until the onions are browning and translucent.
- Add the chorizo and cook until just browned, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the diced tomatoes and their juices.
- Continue cooking another 5 minutes.
- Add the wine to deglaze the pan and then stir in the rice, cooking until toasted, about 3-5
- Slowly pour in the chicken broth and give everything a good stir.
- Slide in the chicken, smoked paprika, and season again with salt and pepper
- Add the saffron, stir gently to combine, but then do not stir again from that point on.
- Meanwhile, toss the seafood with a little olive oil, salt + pepper. A
- the grill, carefully remove the skillet top or foil and add the seafood to the skillet, nestling them into the rice. Loosely cover with foil and let cook about 10-15 minutes (depending on what seafood you use..