Mmmm... paella. I've come to love it, more and more each time I've had it. Pretty sure I owe my love of paella to my aunt Eileen. She makes the best- I totally melt with joy whenever I go to her house and see she's got her paella pan out.
Anecdote: I spent a summer in Barcelona with my sis a couple years ago... seriously one of the best times of my life. We spent a month in Barci and then rented a car and drove throughout the Basque region- one town, Algorta, could very possibly end up my future home (well one of my many future abodes around the world anyway!). We were soooo enthralled by all of the intriguing food, drinks, adventures, and hidden gems we found- I'm pretty sure we never did, or ate the same thing twice (well besides sangria- we pretty much had that for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Anyway, we saw paella right and left, but somehow it never became a staple for us.. maybe because I'm allergic to most shellfish and my sis is a vegetarian- yep, pretty sure that's it- paella isn't exactly a vegetarian treat. (Though you could easily make your own veggie rendition- wouldn't be the same, but you could.)
One day, we accidentally stumbled upon a paella festival in the hills of Algorta. We were just walking about, cruising the cliffsides and boom... this crazy festival just popped up. It appeared to be a Basque pride fest of sorts.. with literally thousands of people scattered atop a cliff making paella, aimlessly wandering, shoving their faces deep in food while holding signs up about something politically natured- maps of the Basque region were drawn with X's and arrows and words in Euskara (the language) that I couldn't even begin to make out. There were gigantic metal paella pans resting on open coals in the dirt everywhere... literally, everywhere. While this would have been the prime place to get my paella fix, our lack of Euskara skills and the intimidation from the mighty beastly looking civilians holding crazy signs sort of deterred us I guess, though looking back it was one of the coolest random stumbling-upons I've probably ever encountered. A very memorable and random find indeed- a teeny town, hidden along the coastline of the Basque country, with hoards of dirty and proud people smothering paella pans like cavemen... was kind of amazing really. Despite the plethora of paella everywhere, paella-for-our-kind we did not find, not that day anyway. Thankfully I have an aunt who changed that...
So back to today... my aunt's killer paella. I finally asked her for the recipe. So. Incredibly. Good. Thanks, aunt Eileen!! Since I can't eat shrimp, I served mine first, and then put the shrimp in for the man. Do whatever you see fit for you... but truthfully, I wouldn't change much, It's pretty awesome just how my aunt created it.
You'll need saffron (that stuff above, if you've never seen it). It can be hard to come by, compared to most spices, but it should be hiding somewhere if you give a good peek around! Did you know... it's the most valuable spice in the world, more expensive than gold even, by weight- pretty crazy!! (Of course this depends on what rate gold is at.. which I don't follow, but I suppose this fact could've changed recently. If you know- fill me in!) Saffron's pretty crucial in paella- it gives it a subtle, but distinct flavor that is true to any Spanish paella, as well as the nice yellowish tint it leaves behind. I found it in a little box in the spice section of Whole Foods... $6.99. Was worth it in my opinion.. I really wanted to make this right!
1 large chicken breast
shrimp, about 1/2 lb
1 chorizo sausage link
1 red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 quart chicken stock
1 tbsp saffron, approx.
1 cup rice- arborio/risotto rice is best (uncooked)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
*You will cook the chicken, shrimp, and chorizo first.
You can use any spice-rub on the chicken & shrimp you want, but I recommend...
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ancho chili pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp olive oil
*You will need a large paella pan or fry pan- it must have a lid
*This recipe isn't all that difficult, as long as you have your ingredients prepped. I have tried to explain it as detailed as I can to help make sure you've got everything you need, in the order you need it in.
Let me know how it goes!!
Prepare chicken, shrimp, and chorizo...
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Get out ingredients for spice-rub
Mix spices together in a baking dish
Rub on chicken liberally (reserve about 1 tbsp rub for shrimp)
Bake at 35 degrees for about 20 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink, but still tender
*Alternatively, you can cook the chicken in a fry pan on the stove,
about 8 minutes on each side
Clean and peel shrimp
Coat with about 1 tbsp of spice-rub
Cook shrimp in a small pan over medium heat
It will only need a couple of minutes on each side, until turns pink
(Be careful to not overcook it- it will get reheated again later in the paella)
Remove from pan and set aside
Then, cook chorizo
Over medium heat, cook for a few minutes on each side, until browned and lightly crisp
Remove from pan and cut into thin slices
Set aside for later
Now prepare the chicken stock...
Heat stock in a sauce pan over medium/low heat until lightly boiling
Add saffron to broth, turn heat to low, and let cook until saffron begins to dissolve
Keep warm until use
Cut the bell pepper into long thin slices
Saute over medium heat with a sprinkle of olive oil and salt
I like them a little browned and soft- like a roasted pepper
Remove and set aside
Now, you are ready to begin making the actual rice part of the paella...
In your large paella pan or fry pan, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat
Thinly slice up the onion
Stir into pan with a light dash of salt (to help them sweat) and
let cook for a few minutes, until they begin to soften
Add rice and let cook until becomes golden, stirring often
This will take about 5 minutes
Then slowly begin pouring in hot chicken stock (with saffron)
(I transferred the stock to a measuring cup for ease)
Add only a little at a time, constantly stirring
Keep stirring and adding broth, until you have added about 2 cups
You will notice some will cook away while stirring,
but it should still appear rather liquidy
Press garlic (or finely mince if don't have a press)
Stir into rice/stock along with paprika and oregano
Reduce heat to medium/low
Let cook for about 10 minutes, until rice has absorbed most of the liquid and is al dente
Will look something like this...
Add more stock, about 1/2 cup or so
Stir in peas...
Cover and let cook for about five more minutes
Keep stirring, adding a little more stock as needed, and
cooking until cooked to your liking
(You won't use all of the stock- I used about 3 cups and
saved the remaining for another dish)
Check seasonings and adjust as desired
Add chicken- lay on top of rice
Cover and let heat for a few minutes
Then, right at end, add shrimp to top, cover, and allow time for them to reheat
Serve and devour!