Gulf Coast ingredients put a spin on classic Spanish meal
There probably are as many variations of paella as there are families in Spain. The aromatic dish combines rice, seafood and saffron into a casual, comforting meal. Infinitely customizable, paella benefits from fresh regional flavors, so giving it a Texas twist is simple and rewarding. Just don’t stir the rice.
Stateside, people tend to like their rice evenly cooked and fluffy. But what sets paella apart is the nutty crust that forms on the bottom of the pan. The socarrat, from the Spanish word “socarrar,” which means “to toast lightly,” is the indicator of how well you’ve executed the dish.
Paella is a dish in which the rice is crucial. It should be made with Calasparra or Bomba rice, medium grain rices grown in Spain that are chubby and round. The shape makes it ideal for absorbing large amounts of liquid, while still maintaining a somewhat firm texture. In traditional paellas, the rice kernels stay separate — never turning creamy or mushy.
The paella pan is as important as the rice. The width of a paella pan helps with rice distribution, ensuring the rice toasts and cooks in a thin layer. Paella pans are sized by width and not height. So, a pan that feeds two is generally about 10 to 12 inches and a pan that serves six to eight is about 18 inches.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds of chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper
8 ounces Spanish chorizo sausage, diced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
12 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
8 ounces of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon saffron
2 bay leaves
2 cups Bomba or medium-grain rice
1 pound shrimp, deveined
2 cups fresh peas
(defrosted frozen peas also work)
Heat the oil in a large, wide skillet or pan over medium heat. In batches, add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally until browned. Transfer to a plate. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Add the chorizo, onions and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in wine and bring to a boil. Cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, saffron and bay leaves. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and ½ teaspoon of salt and return to a boil. Cover tightly and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes.
Place chicken and shrimp over rice and scatter peas on top (do not stir). Cook until rice is tender and the shrimp are firm, another 5 or so minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. The rice will absorb any remaining liquid. Serve hot.