Paella is a great dish that also inspires many passions. The version I most often make is tuned a bit to my family’s preferences, in particular the addition of sausage. If you’d like to be truly traditional with ingredients, there are some suggestions at the bottom of the recipe.
For a 16”/40cm round pan
- 6 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth; more as needed
- 1/2 tsp. saffron
- 1 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil; more if needed
- 4 skin-on chicken bone-in or boneless thighs, chopped in half and seasoned with salt and pepper, or brined for 2 hours in simple saltwater brine (skin-on is better, but skinless is okay)
- 1 small head garlic (remove excess papery skins, trim the top, and make a shallow cut around its equator to speed cooking), plus 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, roasted, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch wide strips
- 1 cup artichoke hearts (frozen artichokes from Trader Joe’s work great)
- 3 oz. green beans (about 16), trimmed. If you can get flat green beans, even better
- 1 small onion, grated on the largest holes of a box grater
- 1 ripe tomato, halved horizontally and grated on the largest holes of a box grater (discard the skin), or 3/4 cup tomato sauce
- 2 cups Calsparra/Bomba/Arborio rice (Bomba rice is best, if you can get it. Other short-grain rice, like sushi rice, will work okay, but rinse it vigorously)
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 lemons, cut in wedges for garnish
- 3-4 links of sausage (chorizo or other sausage), chopped into bite-size pieces.
- alioli (a garlicky mayonnaise for which exist many recipes online. If you are pressed for time, some good mayo + crushed garlic + lemon juice + a little salt works as a reasonable substitute, if not authentic)
- 3.5 lbs. of charcoal briquets. Yes, weighing them helps with reproducibility of the recipe time after time, especially when using a charcoal grill. I learned this trick from Alton Brown.
For a 14”/30cm round pan:
- 4 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth; more as needed
- 1/4 tsp. saffron
- 2/3 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
- 1 1/4 cups Calsparra/Bomba rice
- everything else, use about 1/3 less
- If using a grill, light ~20-30 briquets (~1.5 lbs.) and allow them to burn nicely. If using the stove, set the pan over your largest burner (or over two burners) on medium heat, noticing if the pan sits level. (If not, choose another burner or try to create a level surface.)
- In a saucepan, bring the broth to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Add the saffron and the smoked paprika to the broth. Taste; the broth should be well seasoned, so add more salt if necessary. Remove from the heat until ready to add to the rice.
- Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken skin-side down and the head of garlic; sauté until the chicken is golden. The oil may splatter, so be careful. Transfer the partially cooked chicken to a platter. Leave the head of garlic in the pan.
- Reduce the heat to medium low. Slowly sauté the artichokes and green beans in the same pan, until the artichokes are golden and tender, and the beans are soft and slightly wrinkled, 10 minutes. When the artichokes and green beans are done, push them to the perimeter of the pan where there’s less heat (or transfer them to the platter with the chicken.)
- If you like, you can pause here for a bit and wait until you are about 40 minutes out from dinner before proceeding.
- When ready to proceed, add the remaining ~40-50 briquettes (2.5 lbs.). If your fire died, relight the briquettes.
- Bring the broth back to a simmer if it has cooled down.
- If there’s more than 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan, pour out the excess.
- Increase the heat to medium and sauté the grated onion and sliced garlic until the onion is soft (it’s all right if it gets slightly brown), about 5 minutes. Add the grated tomato. Season well with salt and sauté until the water from the tomato has cooked out and the mixture, called a sofrito, has darkened to a burgundy color and is a very thick purée, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the rice, stirring until it’s translucent, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Spread out the rice (it should just blanket the bottom of the pan), distribute the green beans and artichokes evenly, and arrange the chicken and sausage in the pan. Increase the heat to medium high and pour in 5 cups of the simmering broth (reserving 1 cup). As the broth comes to a boil, lay the peppers in the pan, starburst-like, and push the head of garlic to the center. Cook until the rice begins to appear above the liquid, 6 to 8 minutes, rotating the pan over one and two burners as necessary to distribute the heat to all areas. Add the sprig of rosemary and reduce the heat to medium low.
- When the majority of the stock has been absorbed and small holes appear between the rice, you can lay on additional quicker-cooking items such as shrimp, peas, etc.
- Continue to simmer, rotating the pan as necessary, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente, another 8 to 10 minutes. To check for doneness, taste a grain just below the top layer of rice-there should be a very tiny white dot in the center. If the liquid is absorbed but the rice is not done, add a bit more hot broth or water to the pan and cook a few minutes more.
- Cover the pan with foil or cover the grill and cook gently for another 2 minutes, which will help to ensure that the top layer of rice is evenly cooked.
- Depending on your heat source, this is tricky. If you can adjust the heat source up, and with the cover/foil still in place, increase the heat to medium high and, turning the pan, cook until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating the socarrat, 1 to 2 minutes. You may hear the rice crackling, which is fine, but if it starts burning, remove the pan from the heat immediately. To check for socarrat, peel back the foil and use a spoon to feel for a slight crust on the bottom of the pan. If you are using a charcoal grill, hopefully you had the fire hot enough to start with that it will naturally carry it all the way to the perfect level of doneness. If not, you can use the oven or stove to toast the bottom a little, or just start with a bit more briquettes next time. It will still taste great.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let the paella rest, still covered, 10 minutes. Sit everyone down at a round or square table, if possible. Remove the foil, and invite people to eat directly from the pan, starting at the perimeter and working toward the center, squeezing lemon over their section if they like. Serve with alioli and some nice red wine.
- This calls for a 16”/40cm round pan. If you don’t have a traditional pan, find a different flat-bottomed plan with approximately the same surface area
- You can also make this on the stove, in the oven, or on a gas grill. Preheat the oven to around 350F/176C degrees. Choose a similar temperature for a gas grill
- The traditional paella Valencia would likely add Rabbit, Garrofó Beans, flat green beans and remove the red bell pepper and sausage
- Adding peas is good. Add frozen ones towards the very end so they stay green
- Use a different broth (i.e. fish or crab) and use seafood instead.
- If you actually have grape vine clippings to add to the fire, awesome! It’s traditional to cook over grape vines.
- Completely optional for saffron preparation. Better, but not necessary: Put the saffron on a 3-inch-wide strip of aluminum foil, fold up the foil to make a square packet, and set the foil directly on the lid of the simmering broth for about 15 minutes. Unfold the packet, transfer the saffron to a mortar (or a small bowl), add a pinch of salt, and use the pestle (or the back of spoon) to crush the saffron. Add about 1/2 cup of the hot broth to the saffron and let the saffron steep for about 15 minutes.