Southern Paella

Paella (“pie-ee-ya”) is a Spanish dish based on rice and peas. Usually it has seafood and sausage, unless it has seafood and ham, although some versions have seafood and seafood. It always has seafood unless it doesn’t, in which case I consider it something that can taste wonderful but is not paella. Rice, peas, and meat are required, and it is cooked in a giant pan that looks a bit like someone ran over a wok with a steam-roller.

The classic. This is a screen-shot of Laura Vitale’s home-made recipe. Click the image to go to the video for the dish.

Sib-in-law has been experimenting with one-dish meals this summer, and came up with a simpler, stovetop Southern version of the classic.

1 lb boneless chicken thighs, skins removed, trimmed and cut in half

1/2 lb raw shrimp, shells on [Alma note: I take the shells off. You lose a little flavor, but there is less mess at the table]

olive oil

salt and pepper, 7 cloves of garlic (not a typo)

Mix the oil and spices and divide. Marinate the chicken and shrimp in the above, in two containers.

Butter, one sweet onion, minced; one small green pepper, raw or peeled and roasted, minced; one 15 oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (drain, mince, drain again – reserve liquid)

2 c. jasmine rice; healthy pinch of real saffron (1/2 t.) crushed, 3 C chicken stock at a simmer, 1 1/2 t sweet smoked paprika.

One cup lightly cooked green peas (they can cook as the paella simmers)

While the meat is finishing marinating, bring equal parts oil and butter to shimmering-hot in a large cast-iron pan. Add chicken and cook for “several minutes” without turning. Then turn and add veggies, plus more salt and pepper if desired.Β  Quote, “Shimmy these around the chicken until the veggies soften” quote. [Sib-in-law’s a little different.] Add rice and saffron, stir to coat completely or for one minute. Pour all the stock into the pan and stir until everything is evenly distributed. Keep at a low boil or active simmer, stirring every few minutes. If the rice starts to dry out before it is done, add the reserved tomato liquid.

When rice is finished, add the shrimp and cook until done, or for four minutes [I go five because of elevation]. Top with cooked green peas and adjust seasoning.

You can also use a large regular frying pan, but it needs to be heavy enough to hold the heat.

Alma note: real saffron, not “Mexican saffron.” Yes, it costs an arm and a leg. Use the additional saffron to make saffron buns, or a really good risotto, or…


19 thoughts on “Southern Paella

  1. Is the jasmine rice cooked or uncooked when added? Sounds like uncooked with the stir every few minutes direction.

    Now, both hands needed for the cast iron Dutch oven. That should be perfect for the dish. May wait for the fall crop of vine-fresh peas, served lightly steamed on the side.

    • It is uncooked. Think of this a bit like risotto, where you add the hot liquid to the raw rice and cook slowly. The difference is here you add all the liquid at once, and cook it more quickly.

  2. This sounds excellent, I will have to try the basic recipe, but find something that isn’t shellfish, since no one likes shellfish here. And I can not eat normal onion (or garlic) – green onions might work….

    • Paella has as many versions as cooks. There used to be a restaurant in Mainz, Germany (!), that had at least ten versions. I sampled three, and all were excellent.

  3. You were doing good until peas… Sigh… Had paella in Spain and Italy, took half the meal to pick all the @#$%& peas out, but they were both good. The Spanish one had meat, the Italian one had all seafood, still in the shell, except for the octopus.

      • That would result in more scientific interest, than culinary, also weren’t there squid/octopi-like critters with shells (long, cone ones) around the time of the dinosaurs?

        Though, we still do have nautilus, but I am unsure if they are eaten.

        • If it’s not actually poisonous, *someone* will eat it.

          Heck, for something like fugu. that’s part of the attraction…

          Every ten years or so the enviro-whackos start lecturing on how we should be eating meal worms and crickets to Save Mother Gaia, and how they’re Healthy and Nutritious. If things got that bad, well, enviro-whackos are made out of meat…

      • Heh… Point, I mis-stated that… Mussels, crabs, clams, langostino, and crayfish were in shells. Don’t know what the fish was, but it was white/flaky… Octopus was octopus and sat on top of the bowl. πŸ˜‰

  4. FYI the paella pan in the picture is also the pan of choice for making New Orleans style ‘BBQ shrimp’ which is flat out delicious.

    • I’m not surprised, given the Spanish influences in New Orleans. (People remember the French but forget the Spanish.)

  5. I’m tempted to try this. How long does it take? How much time to marinate? We love paella.

    • I’ve let it marinate three hours to eight hours. I prefer eight, but you can go as low as two hours. Once everything is combined with the rice, 25 minutes plus the shrimp. I’m at 3600′ of elevation, so you might need to adjust that.

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