Paella, paella, paella. This ranks pretty high on my list of favorite Spanish foods. One of these days I’m going to get a true paella pan, and then bring it on a camping trip so I can prepare it over an open fire. Its presentation is as beautiful as the melding of saffron flavor with everything in the pan. Mmm.
My experience with paella has been limited to restaurants and the one time appearance of the dish on a friend’s table when her boyfriend (now fiancé) made a great Spanish feast (Did I mention he’s a legit Spaniard?). Ordering out, I always opt for either the paella marisco (read “seafood paella”) or paella mixta (read “mixed paella,” a paella with both meat and seafood). The seafood flavor in the dish does it for me. It’s this layer of umami that’s distinctly “fresh ocean” romance.
In the version of paella I attempted, you will find no seafood. The only reason this happened is because I didn’t have any on hand and it was terribly windy outside.
I don’t like driving in crazy winds.
I also had four defrosted chicken thighs sitting in my fridge. Chicken it was!
I based my paella off of an “authentic” recipe I found doing some google-ing for Chicken Paella, which you will find here. I honestly have no idea about the level of authenticity, but the ingredient list is simple, similar to other recipes, and I had everything on hand without having to make a trip to the store.
My rendition of Paella de Pollo, serves 4 (or more, with leftovers):
- 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (or drumsticks, or enough chicken pieces to feed 4 people)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1-2 cloves of garlic (however garlicky you want it)
- 1-2 cups diced tomatoes (I used the rest of my heirloom cherry tomatoes. I’m estimating how much there actually was.)
- 1 1/2 cups white rice (I used 2 cups, and ended up having way too much rice to fit in my pan comfortably.)
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth (I had used 5 cups, relative to my rice, and because my pan was filled to the brim, I didn’t get to boil off as much as I wanted in the beginning for fear of creating an epic mess.)
- pinch of saffron
- 1 T of paprika (because I felt it made it feel more Spanish)
- 1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley
- 3/4 cup peas (I used frozen.)
- 1 red bell pepper sliced into “sticks”
- salt, to taste
- pepper, if you must
- good tasting extra virgin olive oil (I used the lovely Spanish olive oil I received from a friend.)
First, cook the chicken. If you are using, chicken thighs, I recommend viewing my previous post for pan-roasted chicken thighs. Instead of finishing them in the oven, I fried them in the pan for about 12 minutes on both sides, until the juice was almost clear. Set the chicken aside.
Drain the leftover fat, leaving about a tablespoon or two left in the pan. Keeping the heat at a medium-high, sauté the onion, garlic, and tomatoes until the onion is translucent and the whole mess is fragrant. Remember to season with salt! I actually focused too much on getting pictures and not letting things burn that I completely forgot to salt the food throughout the entire process!
Add in the rice and sauté until the rice is opaque. (See my bit on sautéing rice in my Mexi-feast.)
Add in your paprika and parsley and stir. Pour in your broth and add the saffron. Stir. Even out the surface of the rice and place the chicken on top. The chicken should be partially submerged in the liquid. This allows the pieces to finish cooking in a bit of a braise.
Bring to a boil and turn the heat down so it’s at a rapid simmer, almost boiling. Let it go until the liquid reduces and the rice breaks through. At this point, the rice should be about halfway cooked. Add in your peas and CAREFULLY mix them into the rice. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just get them mixed in so they’re not sitting on top all willy-nilly.
After a few minutes, add the red bell pepper sticks on top of everything. It’s your edible garnish, so arrange it so it also cooks evenly. I cheated and covered this for a while, until the rice was completely done and the peppers were tender-crisp.
Since I made a total amateur mistake and forgot to salt as I went, I added generous pinches of salt at the end, and when serving. Since I didn’t use the olive oil during the cooking process, I used it as a garnish when serving. Just a drizzle packs a lot of flavor.