Hey there, fellow Foodies!
Bret here, with the second installment of Foodie Friday! I’m super excited to share my first recipe with you guys, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it (and eating it!). This recipe brings back many memories from when I was younger. My family and I traveled quite a bit, and one of our trips was to Spain. While we were there, I had my first taste of Paella. It was delicious and it’s a dish I’ve often revisited because it’s very nourishing, warm, inviting, fresh, and it is GREAT for sharing with others. As I have mentioned before, and will continue to remind everyone, THIS MAY NOT BE TRADITIONAL. But it is my recipe and I love it (I have yet to hear any complaints). So without hesitation, crack open a bottle of wine and let’s get started.
I really like all sorts of poultry and seafood, and the more traditional Paella’s I’ve had were usually seafood. In Spain the first try I had with Paella was after a bullfight and they used the tail of the bull! It was delicious, but bull tail? Probably not an easy ingredient to find. Paella’s commonly incorporate chicken, Spanish chorizo, shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari, or pretty much anything. I chose chicken thighs, “chorizo” ( I’m not convinced it was real chorizo, but it worked!), shrimp, and a little pancetta for added flavor.
Good olive oil 3/4 tbsp
Saffron threads (about 6 or just a good sized pinch)
Smoked or sweet paprika 1 tsp
Ground cloves 1/2 tsp.
Salt and pepper
Salt and pepper (again)
1/3 cup good olive oil
Chicken thighs (4 or 5) sliced into strips
Jumbo shrimp, 3-4 per person, peeled and deveined
Spanish chorizo, 1 1/2 links sliced 1/4 – 1/2 inch thickness
3 1/2 inch slices of pancetta diced
1 large red bell pepper diced
1 sweet yellow onion diced
2-3 ( or more) large cloves garlic minced
1 12oz. jar of sofrito
1 1/3 cup chicken stock
1 1/3 cup seafood stock
1 1/3 cup arborio or bomba rice
1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas
2-3 lemons rolled and wedged
A good handful of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
*On the side*
1 baguette sliced long ways and quartered buttered, toasted and rubbed with garlic ( or with roasted garlic) to serve along side. And lots of love!
The number one most important part of this dish, however, is going to be the spice combination. I realize saffron is kind of expensive, but if you look hard enough you can find it very reasonably priced. If you don’t mind splurging a little, then feel free to buy from your local grocer, but if you do a little deal hunting, it can be pretty easy to find for cheaper. I bought a small container from Home Goods for $7.99, which, in my opinion, is super affordable. My recipe calls for only 6 strands of saffron, but I figure this is a spice that I don’t use often, so I went ahead and added a pretty decent pinch to my mortar and pestle (you could just use a small bowl). Then a good pinch of ground cloves (maybe 1/2 tsp, clove is a strong spice) and a good tsp of smoked or sweet paprika along with about ¾ tbsp of olive oil. I mix all of that up pretty well and set it aside to let it sit until needed.
The next step is all the fun chopping. Dice (meaning cut up into small pieces) a red pepper, and a sweet onion. Then mince (meaning cut up into even smaller pieces) about 2-3 good sized cloves of garlic; I used 4 because I LOVE garlic. Set all of those aside in separate bowls. We want a finer dice on these veggies, but not so small that we lose the texture.
After the chopping is attended to, I add 1/3 cup of olive oil to my skillet. If you can find a Paella pan, BUY ONE! Even if you’re not going to use it regularly. I drove around all day trying to find one and failed, so just ordered one for the future. But your large cast iron skillet will do for now. Turn your stove to medium high/ high heat and let the oil get nice and hot. Once it’s hot, add your veggies, but wait on the garlic! You’re cooking! Yay!! Get them nice and soft, the onions should be almost translucent. Pinch in a LITTLE salt and pepper and then add the garlic. I always add the garlic in last because it burns easily.
At this point I go ahead and add the pancetta and the chicken. This way, the pancetta will get somewhat crisp and flavor the veggies further. Pancetta can be a little salty and we don’t want to over season, so no more salt! Once your chicken and pancetta is almost fully cooked, you will add an 8-12 oz. jar of sofrito (or tomato puree) and your chorizo (mine was fully cooked when I purchased it). Sofrito is the more traditional way to go, and I think it definitely adds more flavor than a regular tomato puree. It’s a little bit of a splurge, but totally worth it. Let this cook down until the chicken and pancetta is fully cooked. At this point I had to reserve about 1/3 of my chicken, chorizo, veggie and sofrito mix, because of the size of my skillet. If you don’t have a Paella pan, I would do the same. You can always do something delicious with it the next day, get creative
Next, I add my stock. I like to use a full 2 cup measuring cup of half chicken stock and half seafood stock. This fits my taste perfectly, but you could definitely go all one way or the other on this. Bonus tip: add a little stock to your sofrito jar and shake it up to get ALL of the sofrito into your mixture. Then add in your spice and olive oil mixture, rinse the mortar (or bowl) with a little stock, as well, to make sure we use all of our spice mixture. Then give your pan a good stir and let it sit until everything starts bubbling a little bit.
Then go ahead and add a well-rounded cup of rice. Aborio or bomba rice will work best because of the starch content, and is traditionally used in Paella. Give everything a good stir. Now here is the hard part, DO NOT STIR IT ANYMORE! I know this defies all logic, but what we are trying to do is create Socorrat. Socorrat is a browned, caramelized layer of rice on the bottom of the pan that creates a light bitterness and adds a few little crunchy-chewy pieces to the dish. This is what we want. So just lay off the stirring, pour a nice glass of white wine, and chill with your dinner guests!
When the liquid in your pan has reduced to a little more than half, you will go ahead and add the shrimp. But don’t just toss them in there! Line them up nicely around the pan, and try to make sure they are submerged in the liquid. If you waited a little too long and cannot submerge the shrimp enough, go ahead and add some more stock. No biggie! Traditionally they say about three shrimps per person, but I love shrimp, so I added a full pound. Soon you’ll notice that your liquid has pretty much fully reduced and your shrimp are perfectly cooked. At this point, I personally like to sprinkle a good handful (maybe a 1/2 cup) of frozen peas on top. You can use fresh peas if you want, but frozen are just fine and will thaw quickly. We don’t want to fully cook them, just heat them. Then, I will go ahead and turn my burner down super low, or just turn it off. Look at that! We’re almost finished!
By now, your dish should look something like this! Looks delicious, right? Before plating go ahead and squeeze a half of a lemon all over your Paella. Here is where the socorrat comes in, you’re going to take your wooden spoon and PUSH across the bottom of your skillet, making sure to lightly scrape the caramelized layer off of the bottom. Go at it from all angles with the spoon and mix everything well.
To plate this I used a shallow pasta dish, and added a couple slices of toasted garlic butter baguette, and of course some roughly chopped flat leaf parsley just to make everything look a little prettier. For some added freshness throw on a nice big wedge of lemon. The lemon really adds a nice sharpness and fresh flavor. This will comfortably serve about 3-4 people, with possible leftovers. So, make it a dinner party!
In Spain, they would put the whole pan in the middle of the table and let everyone have a go, family style. But I have a thing about presentation, so I always plate everything myself. I think it just adds a little extra love when you go the extra mile to make everything look pretty for your guests. I definitely suggest a good white wine to go with this (Pinto Grigio is my favorite!) or a good beer! We chose a new one called Oculto by Anheuser. It went pretty well, and definitely packs a punch as far as flavor goes. I think the most important thing about this dish is getting your friends/family together and creating something that everyone can help with, have a few laughs, and get a little tipsy!
Alright guys, if you’ve made it this far you’re pretty rad! I really hope to hear your comments and suggestions and maybe even see some pictures of your final results! I picked this dish for my first recipe because you guys can get your friends or family involved, and hopefully make some awesome memories, like the memories I’ve created around this awesome dish. With that said, happy cooking, my fellow Foodies!!