Comfort food is hardly ever mentioned during the heat of summer days, but for me, paella is that summer comfort dish. It has bits of everything I love: rice, seafood, and the best part, crispy burnt bottoms. So utterly Asian of me, right? I’ve been having massive fresh seafood withdrawals since moving to landlocked Arizona, too, so this paella valenciana was just beckoning me to whip up.
Paella is one of those high ticket priced menu items that people are impressed with, yet one of the easiest things to make. It is basically a Spanish fried rice…throw lots of things in a pan and voila, you have a delicious meal. But in this case, it’s usually for 10+ people. The most important tip for making paella is creating the socarrat, or that burnt, crispy rice bottom. There are a few types of rice you can use with paella, I’ve decided to use Arborio rice since paella rice is difficult to come by. If you’re familiar with Arborio rice, it is often used to make risotto. However, while risotto requires constant stirring until cooked, ‘NEVER STIR’ is the cardinal rule when cooking paella. This actually creates a lot less work for us and makes this a very no-fuss, easy, one pan meal.
Fresh seafood is also what will make this dish from good, to being spectacular. It’s important to buy your clams and mussels at earliest a day before, but ideally day of. If you do buy them a day ahead, be sure to keep them alive by placing them in a strainer with a damp cloth on top in the fridge. You never want to keep them in an air tight package or dunked in fresh water since both will kill them. Food poisoning is not fun, I tell you.
Don’t be intimidated by this dish, it is very easy and quite the showstopper for your next summer dinner party. Chase this with a dry glass of rose and you’ve completed your summer.
Recipe inspired by F&W
Prep Time: 30 min, Total time: 1.5 hr
- 12 Mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 6-7 Littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 4 jumbo shrimp, deveined and butterflied
- 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 2-3 chicken thighs
- 1.5 ounces of ground chorizo
- 1/2 cup diced jarred piquillo peppers
- 8 ounces of butter beans
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 1 cup arborio rice, washed and fully dried
- Pinch of saffron threads
- 1/4 cup frozen baby peas
- Olive oil
1. Making the onion puree: In a large saucepan, heat a ~1 Tbsp over low-medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cover and cook covered until softened (~5 min). Uncover and stir occasionally until onion is lightly browned (~another 5 min). Transfer onion and garlic to blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
**Note: this step can be done ahead and refrigerated for up to 1 day.**
2. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. In a large, deep silly, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil on moderate heat and cook chicken thighs until golden all over (~12 min). Transfer chicken thighs to plate, leaving oil and juices in pan.
3. Add onion puree, chorizo, piquillo peppers and butter beans to pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until sizzling. (~2-3 min)
4. Add the chicken broth and bring to boil. Crumble the saffron and sprinkle into the broth. Season with salt to taste.
5. Stir in rice. Nestle chicken things in rice. Cover and cook over low-moderate heat until rice is nearly tender, about 18 min. DO NOT STIR OR DISTURB RICE. The pan may be rotated to cook evenly.
6. Add in peas, mussels, clams and shrimp. Cover and cook until shellfish is open and chicken is cooked through (~8 min).
**Note: If the shellfish has not fully opened within 10 min, transfer to a steamer and steam on high until fully opened (~10-15 min max). Littleneck clams may be stubborn sometimes. If shells have not opened at this point, discard.
7. Let paella rest for 5 min before serving.