Like couscous or feijoada, this is a pretty big undertaking. If authenticity is your thing, there are notes on paella valenciana interspersed in here. This recipe leaves out the rabbit and snails because hard to find.
Paella originated in Valencia. We have a family member from Valencia, see my other, older treatment of paella, who informs us that valencianos consider that one paella recipe is truly authentic. Anything other than this, says Alvaro, is just "paella y cosas." There are notes about this in here. (And, we really miss seeing Alvaro and Sarah at our table on Sundays, alas!)
Notice, in the illustrations, which can be clicked to enlarge, the socarrat or browned rice crusting that can (and should) form without buring at the bottom of the paellera, if you're careful.
|1 tbsp||olive oil|
|5 cloves||garlic, minced|
|3 tbsp||tomato paste (faster than starting with whole, fresh tomatoes)|
|1 tbsp||smoky paprika|
|4 cups||chicken stock|
|1 bottle||clam juice (optional)|
|2/3 cup||dry sherry|
|Pinch||saffron (optional, obviously because prohibitively expensive and hard to find)|
Bloom garlic in oil, for 1 minute. Bloom tomato paste and paprika, for 1 minute. Add chicken stock, clam juice and sherry. Add saffron. Bring to boil, remove from heat. The sofrito consists of tomato, onion and bell pepper. It's the underpinning of a paella's flavor. We'll do the tomato here, but the other two come later.
|1-1/2lb||chicken thighs, boneless, cut in half|
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Set aside for grill. Just before cooking paella, grill (brown) chicken just a bit.
|1 lb||large shrimp, deveined|
|1 tbsp||olive oil|
|1 clove||garlic, minced|
Peel shrimp leaving tails. Toss in oil, garlic, paprika and salt. Incidentally, shrimp is cosas too, read on...
|1lb||clams or mussels, rinsed and debearded|
* Cosas is a derogatory term because, in Valencia, the only ingredients should be chicken, rabbit and snails, green beans, lima or butter beans (garrofó), optionally artichokes, saffron and rosemary. If you do additional cosas, you're pretty much just showing off! (I've done some showing off with mussels and autras cosas).
|1/4 cup||olive oil|
|1 cup||onion, fine-diced|
|1/2 cup||roasted red peppers (in place of bells)|
|3 cups||arborio rice (medium-grained rice)|
|1 cup||green beans, fresh (could use frozen peas)|
|—||other vegetables like lima beans, chick peas and/or artichokes|
Okay, here we go...
Heat paellera with oil until shimmering. Add onions, red peppers and salt. We're using canned or bottled red peppers just as we used tomato paste: it hurries things up. I advise against green bells because their color easily turn nasty looking while cooking. Push ingredients around on the paellera to soften onions, for 5 minutes. When onions begin to brown, add rice. A la pilaf, ensure rice grains are well coated with oil by tossing.
Arrange chicken around the edges of the paellera. Pour in broth. It will largely "swamp" everything but the chicken. Ensure that all the rice is loose, not clumped, and being cooked in the broth. Bring rice to a boil, but immediate back down to simmer (only!).
Add any cosas, and keep simmering slowly, 15-20 minutes. Cover if you have the means. Spin the paellera frequently to ensure that the rice doesn't burn (to avoid hot spots), but what touches the bottom of the pan forms a crust called socarrat. If you stir, you destroy the crust! Just before the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated, add the green beans. When you hear the rice start to sizzle, it's on its way and will need only a few minutes longer. Especially if it appears that the rice is going to burn, remove the pan to let it finish cooking off-heat.
I would hold back any shrimp until very near the end in order not to overcook.
Of course, this cooking is a disaster if you burn the dish before (all these) minutes are passed, so cook it low and slow.
Take care never to burn your paellera; you paid plenty for it. Clean it carefully after each use. If you were lucky enough to get an unfinished steel pan, carefully season and take care of that seasoning.