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Paella - the cook to please a crowd!

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    Paella - the cook to please a crowd!

    One of my all-time favorite dishes to prepare and eat is paella. Over time, I have combined various recipes I've read and dialed in the technique I use that brings great results. Everyone seems to enjoy this dish when I make it, so I thought I would share my take on paella with the group, as I've been asked over time. This is just what I've gathered and combined, but I tell you, the paella others on the site have made looks amazing and it gives me ideas to add to this recipe. But, I hope you are able to gain a few tips from what I've done, if you need them. But the base of my recipe comes from 10 years ago from The Spanish Table and a recipe I picked up off of Chow.com. I have combined these, as well as a few other things I've picked up through reading and of course experience over time.

    Some paella history - Paella was a dish that consisted of chicken, rabbit, snails and various kinds of beans, but over time has become associated with seafood, chicken and vegetables. Also named after the pan it is cooked in, a "paellera" and was developed in the Spanish town of Valencia. Spain is known for some great types of rice and the various ingredients are abundant from different regions of Spain, making this a great pairing and easy dish for field workers to cook over an open fire. The rice, as mentioned before, is grown in the region and is either known as bomba or valencia style rice. This rice is small-medium sized and round, that allows for it to absorb flavors and moisture well while keeping it's shape. Of all the items in making paella, this specific type of rice is the most important ingredient in my opinion. Don’t try to substitute regular rice, it may not turn out like it should.

    Finding the ingredients can be pretty easy as well. I buy Matiz Bomba rice and Spanish chorizo from Amazon. But my next paella will include my homemade Spanish style chorizo! I have also purchased pimenton (paprika) from Amazon. Some local specialty food shops carry all of this as well. I can even purchase Spanish chorizo from my local grocery store. So finding these key ingredients won’t be hard.

    Course. Lunch. Dinner. Entree.

    Cuisine. Spanish.

    Prep time. 45 minutes

    Cooking time. about 60 minutes – this varies, so trust your judgement

    Special equipment. I use a 17” paellera, or paella pan - size is based on amount you plan on serving. I have an enameled steel pan for ease of storage. You can also use a carbon steel pan and have it last a long time with proper care.
    This recipe will be based on per person servings, allowing you to serve the exact amount needed every time.

    1/3 cup uncooked Bomba rice per person, or 1/2 cup Valencia
    1/2 cup chicken stock per person
    1/2 cup dry white wine per person
    5 threads of saffron per person dissolved in stock – prior to dissolving, I put the saffron in a foil packet and warm it up near the fire for a few minutes, then crush it into powder to dissolve easier.
    4 TBS or more of olive oil to cover paella pan
    1 chicken thigh per person
    1 Spanish chorizo, sliced on the bias
    1/2 teaspoon Spanish pimenton (paprika) - I use both sweet and smoked
    1 clove garlic clove per person, minced
    1/4 cup onion per person, grated
    1/8 cup tomato per person, grate - cut tomato in half and grate, discarding the skin
    2 shrimp per person
    2-4 small clams per person
    2-4 mussels per person
    red piquillo peppers cut in strips
    1/2 bag frozen peas
    lemon wedges for garnish
    Flat leaf parsley – chopped to garnish
    salt and pepper to taste, layered in as you cook dish


    To make this cook as easy as possible for yourself, Mise En Place is key! Get everything prepped and in separate bowls and you will have a much more enjoyable time cooking paella!

    1. Prepare one full chimney of briquettes, allowing to get ashed over for majority of chimney. Once ashed over, dump into kettle grill and spread evenly. If you are cooking for a large group, add 1/2 full chimney of unlit briquettes to the top of the ashed briquettes to allow for longer cook. Time this so that your ingredients are all prepped and ready once you dump coals into kettle. I prefer to get all ingredients prepped, then start with the fire so I am not rushed. I also choose to add a few chunks of wood to the grill and fire to provide additional flavor and smoke.

    2. Cut tomatoes in half and grate the flesh side over a bowl to capture tomato pulp and any juices until you get to the skin.

    3. Peel and cut onion in half. Grate onion over a bowl to capture onion and any juices.

    4. Place the shrimp in a bowl and add ¼ of the total pimenton (paprika) with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

    5. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and set aside.

    6. Once coals are ready and in kettle, place grill grates on and place paella pan on the grill and allow to get hot. Add the sliced chorizo to the pan and allow to cook while stirring occasionally and flipping once. This will allow chorizo to brown and render some fat that will add great flavor to the dish. Once slightly browned, remove with slotted spoon or tongs and cover to keep warm.

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    7. There will be a layer of some rendered chorizo fat, but I usually add additional oil for the chicken at this time. Eyeball it, you don’t want too much oil, but enough to allow for a nice brown sear on the chicken thighs on each side. Once browned on each side, remove to a plate and cover.

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    8. Add grated onion to pan and season with salt and pepper. Allow onion to soften and caramelize a bit. Stir occasionally so onion does not burn. I prefer a metal spatula as my mixing utensil for this dish, as it allows for you to scrape the pan if needed to loosen flavorful bits.

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    9. Add garlic as the onion begins to soften, stir to mix. Add the remaining pimenton (paprika) and mix everything together.

    10. Add the tomato pulp and juices, mix well and cook until everything has slightly darkened. Add salt and pepper (layering the seasoning, so make sure not to be heavy at any point). At this point, you should have a wonderful aroma coming off the grill. As you move through these first steps, pay attention to the hot spots of the grill and rotate the paella pan for even cooking.

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    11. Once you have a great flavor base from the mixture, time to add the rice. Stir to combine well and coat in the mixture. I will also allow for the rice to cook this way for just a few minutes. There’s moisture within the mixture, so it’s starting to take on this great flavor during this few minutes. But don’t go to long or you could compromise the rice.

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    12. Add the broth with dissolved saffron threads from foil packet as well as white wine. Stir to combine. Gently arrange the rice mixture in an even layer within the pan. You want to make sure the liquid is covering the rice. Next, add the chorizo, chicken with skin facing up and any accumulated juices from the chorizo and chicken. I like to nestle the chicken down into the mixture, but try to allow the skin to remain above the liquid level.

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    13. THIS IS KEY – DO NOT TOUCH THE RICE AT THIS POINT UNTIL IT’S TIME TO SERVE!!!! By leaving the rice alone, you are allowing for the mixture to cook as it’s supposed to, but you are also allowing for the socarrat to form on the bottom of the rice. This is the beautiful brown caramelized color of rice that has a bit of texture to it that adds just one more layer of flavor to this already amazing dish.

    14. Cover the grill after the liquid has been added and bring the mixture to a good simmer. Continue to simmer and check occasionally that the rice is absorbing the liquid and increasing in size. Also make sure you rotate the pan for even cooking. As you check on the rice, as the liquid is absorbed, take a taste to determine if the rice is done or not. It’s hard to provide a time here due to temp of coals and such, so just watch and taste as you go and maintain the temp so you keep a simmer.

    15. Once the rice is close to being done, add the seasoned shrimp and shellfish you have chosen (hinged side down), nestling them in as you did with the chicken.

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    16. Once the shrimp and shellfish are just about finished, add your peas and red pequillo peppers in an eye appealing way. Allow them to warm.

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    17. Finally – the rice has finished cooking – you are dying to give this a try, which you should have to ensure the rice was properly cooked. But, you need to make sure there is some socarrat on the bottom. You can listen to the pan, see if the rice sings to you, crackling a bit. If you hear that, you may have socarrat forming. This is a nice caramelization that adds flavor, but is not burnt. Once you have that, remove pan from the fire and cover with foil for 5 minutes.

    18. Uncover pan and remove any unopened shellfish and discard. To serve, add lemon wedges around pan along with chopped parsley. Place in the middle of the table along with a spoon for each person to enjoy. Paella is made to eat straight from the pan, which brings even more enjoyment to the crowd. They get to see an eye pleasing dish that will knock their socks off in flavor.

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    As for other styles of paella, this is where you can have fun with adding the protein and vegetables you enjoy. I have had rabbit paella, although I didn’t cook it. It was fine, not my paella, but it tasted like chicken. So, I stick with chicken. You can choose to do whole shrimp if you really want to up the presentation. Add some lobster as well – a nice seafood only paella can be done with a seafood mixture from Costco that combines, mussels, langostino, shrimp and squid. For vegetables, green beans, pickled asparagus and artichoke hearts are also popular choices.

    You can also cook paella on a gas grill, which is how I originally use to make this dish. Just make sure you have enough room to close the grill completely when needed, or you may need to add additional time. You can also cook this in the oven if needed, but, given the group we are – who wants to cook paella in the oven when we can play with fire!

    Whatever style of paella you choose, I hope you enjoy the paella journey you go on. Like I mentioned before, this is one of my favorite dishes to prepare, cook and serve to family and friends. It’s a process, but one that brings joy to everyone as you stand around the kettle sipping on a beverage.

    Great job...that looks awesome!!


      Looks great - I can almost smell it.....


        NOW I'm hungry. I have threatened to do this a few times and never followed thru. Will have to change that. Thank you


        • barelfly
          barelfly commented
          Editing a comment
          I hope you do! I want this to inspire those that have never cooked paella! Go for it and post pics when you do!

        Outstanding, looks delicious. I first had Paella in Spain when I was in the Navy many moons ago. As you say the secret to a good one is the soccarat. Spanish chorizo is less spicy and greasy and should be used. I saw a 5' Paella pan used on Man, Fire, Food to make a paella in Oregon over an open fire, In Spain paella is made for celebrations. Anyway I love it and have several recipes.


        • barelfly
          barelfly commented
          Editing a comment
          I have the same MFF episode recorded. I love that cook! I would love to do a cook like that on a big fire!

        • barelfly
          barelfly commented
          Editing a comment
          What is your favorite for paella? Is it much different than I what I posted about? I’m all for trying different types. Ibpve even thought of a seafood style using squid ink to p voice a different flavor as well.

        Great write up I need to try this.


        • barelfly
          barelfly commented
          Editing a comment
          I hope you will! My hope was to inspire others with my write up. You will enjoy it!

        Love a great paella!!! Excellent write up!!


          Thank you barelfly, this is a great presentation. Love paella!


            On my way,,,,,,,,just one bite !!!!


              Great write up! I too enjoy making paella, it's a fun dish to do. We have an annual gathering at our place and I get to break out the 30" paellera. One year I switched up to do brisket instead and it was dang near a mutiny!


              • barelfly
                barelfly commented
                Editing a comment
                30” paellera! I gotta see pics of this!

              • CaptainMike
                CaptainMike commented
                Editing a comment
                barelfly it's out in the barn, but I'll shoot you a pic when I dig it out next time. Good Lord if I remember!

              • barelfly
                barelfly commented
                Editing a comment
                Would be great to hear if there are different styles or ingredients you use.

              Thanks for the write up!


                That is a fantastic recipe and photo guide. Thank you so much! I am originally from the Central Valley of California where this is the "club" favorite. Elks, Rotary and Lions. They all do a Portuguese recipe which yours looks closest to. I have never dared try to replicate it because I haven't been a member of the groups who cook it. I am going to bookmark this.


                • CaptainMike
                  CaptainMike commented
                  Editing a comment
                  There's some nuances to this dish for sure, but it's an every day meal in Spain. Gotta fire bro whose wife is from Spain and they visited there recently. He said every Edificio de Bomberos he stopped by not only had several paella pans, but made paella for them every time.

                • barelfly
                  barelfly commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I hope you will give this a try! You will enjoy it so much! And this is one of the reasons I posted my process, to encourage those who have never made it to go for it!

                That really looks good. I'm thinking I'd like to try setting a paella pan on the surface of my Cuisinart 360...https://www.cuisinart.com/shopping/o...ddles/cgwm-041. It looks like you use an enameled steel pan. I'm looking at paella pans and I see stainless steel, cast iron, enameled steel, and carbon steel choices. I think stainless steel would not work on the griddle top due to poor heat conduction. Anybody have experience with the other materials and paella pans? I think it would need to be relatively flat to conduct evenly on the griddle top. I'm thinking I'd like a pan in the 14-18 inch diameter range. What is the ideal depth for a paella pan? Also, I'd like to spend <= $35 if possible.


                • barelfly
                  barelfly commented
                  Editing a comment
                  treesmacker that looks like a nice carbon steel pan. If you get it and use it on the above cuisinart, just make sure it gets good, even contact with the heating surface so it cooks evenly. I think the heavier and thicker the pan, the more it will maintain its shape if it comes flat. It should work! If you do get it let us know how it works!

                • treesmacker
                  treesmacker commented
                  Editing a comment
                  barelfly I finally purchased a paella pan. Was downtown in a local kitchen shop (a very good one here in Grants Pass OR) and came across 13" carbon steel pan branded Matiz. Looks to be just the right size for my wife and I. I'm looking forward to trying out your recipe, though on a smaller scale. Thanks for posting - I'll post pics when I get to it.


                  Last edited by treesmacker; February 8, 2020, 11:14 PM.

                • barelfly
                  barelfly commented
                  Editing a comment
                  treesmacker this store looks pretty cool! Enjoy the pan! Matiz is the company name for the rice I use for Paella, and I’ve seen their pans on line. Can’t wait to see pics! Enjoy!

                Looks delicious. Thanks for all the tips. It’s been years since I made paella. Every time I see my paella pan in the pantry I think I should make some. One day soon, I hope.


                  I love all ththe responses here! The whole reason to post this was to encourage and inspire! I hope it does.

                  It would also be great to collect some of the different ideas or recipes everyone uses. Feel free to post those up here! Would love to see them!


                  • mountainsmoker
                    mountainsmoker commented
                    Editing a comment
                    barelfly my recipe is pretty close to yours. We may add some red and/or yellow peppers. I may use rabbit sometimes if I can get it.


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