The perfect paella, loaded with chorizo and shrimps cooked in a delicious saffron flavored broth till it reaches perfect socarrat texture.
I haven’t been to Spain. Not yet..but if I could travel in an instant, I would go to Spain. I would apparate (Harry Potter fans : couldn’t stop myself) myself to the big, bold, hearty land of Andalusia with its olive trees and soak myself in the saffron scented air of Valencia. I would lose myself in the food feast of Madrid and Basque..and finally settle in Catalonia for the amazing inter cultural inspired food. Its true, Spanish food inherits its flavors from the Greeks, Romans , Italians and the French. No wonder then their food is so so amazing!
But its the region of Valencia thats home to the infamous rice staple Paella.The cuisine from this region is held in high esteem by both national and international food lovers. Home to many fresh ingredients, the traditional recipes of this region are rich in olive oil, vegetables, fresh fruits, meat, spices and seafood. Paella is the trademark of this region and the Spaniards are very protective about what is or isn’t a paella.
Paella.. this delicious and rich rice dish is a mix between the Indian pulao and the pilaf. Nothing like the Italian risotto, as the main characteristic of the paella is the separated rice grains. They aren’t creamy or mushy like the risotto. Rather a good paella MUST have separated grains, MUST have saffron, MUST have seafood and MUST have some crispy rice bits known as socarrat.
It should typically be cooked in a paella pan, which is more wide than deep which ensures that the rice is cooked in a single thin layer. Also remember to use a medium length rice that will stay plump and not become mushy after cooking. Its is very very important.As much as I love chicken, and chorizo, I feel that seafood makes a paella. Seafood somehow marries the saffron flavoured rice so well and results in a flavorsome, smoky ,saffron-y paella that can make your mouth water even before you see it.
I usually eat the paella as it is…by itself. Its a complete one pan meal after all..And kind of perfect for the rainy days we are seeing now. The rice really is the best part of a paella. I can eat loads and loads of that smoky, saffron flavoured rice and I have. I made a giant pan of paella for P, myself and a good friend thinking there would definitely be leftovers (the recipe says serves 4-6), but the three of use polished it off in one sitting. We totally fell into simultaneous food comas afterwards, but it was oh so worth it.
All I can say is the saffron deliciousness wafting through the chilly air as I made this was so so inviting that I simply snuck in a spoon (or two or three ;)) and invited myself to the best kept secret of Valencia.
Its a feast for your senses.. just give in to the toasted rice flavor, the saffrony goodness, the added deliciousness of chicken and chorizo and the perfectly plumped shrimps.
Life will feel good 🙂
- 30 THREADS SAFFRON, CRUSHED (A SCANT 1⁄2 TSP.)
- 4 CHICKEN THIGHS
- 10-12 LARGE SHRIMP, PEELED AND DEVEINED
- SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER, TO TASTE
- 1⁄2 CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
- FRESH CHORIZO, REMOVED FROM CASING AND CRUMBLED
- 1 TABLESPOON SMOKED PAPRIKA
- 6-7 CLOVES GARLIC, MINCED
- 3 MEDIUM TOMATOES, MINCED
- 1 SMALL ONION, MINCED
- 7 CUPS CHICKEN BROTH
- 2 1⁄2 CUPS SHORT-GRAIN RICE
- 1 RED PEPPER SLICED INTO 1 INCH STRIPS
- 1 CARROT - chopped fine
- 100 gms FROZEN PEAS
- 12 CLAMS or MUSSELS (optional)
- LEMON WEDGES (for garnish)
- CILANTRO chopped finely (for garnish)
- RED CHILLIE -1 or 2, deseeded and chopped fine (for garnish)
- Put saffron and 1⁄4 cup hot water in a small bowl; let sit for 15 minutes.
- Season chicken and shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12" paella pan over medium-high heat.
- Add chicken, shrimp, and chorizo and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer shrimp to a plate, leaving meats in pan.
- Add paprika, garlic, tomatoes, and onions to the pan and cook, stirring often, until onions soften, about 6 minutes.
- Add reserved saffron mixture and broth, season with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Sprinkle in rice, distribute evenly with a spoon, and add peppers and carrots.
- Cook, without stirring, until rice has absorbed most of the liquid, 12-15 minutes. (If your pan is larger than the burner, rotate it every two minutes so different parts are over the heat and the rice cooks evenly.)
- Reduce heat to low, add reserved shrimp and peas, cook, without stirring, until rice has absorbed the liquid and is al dente, 5–10 minutes more.
- Turn heat to high for 1-2 minutes to create the socarrat.
- Remove pan from heat, cover with aluminum foil, and let sit for 5 minutes before enjoying.
My advice here is simple – delicious as this dish is, if you're feeling a bit flush, adding 6 mussels, 6 clams and any extra bits of fish you can afford is only going to make it even more of a celebration.
Do not skimp on the saffron.