Being Asian, I like rice. Being Japanese, I love seafood, this explains why Paella is one of my favorite foods of all time. Sadly it’s so often relegated to the ranks of mediocrity here in the States resembling a dry pilaf without any of the soccarat at the bottom of the pan.
I know authentic Valencian paella doesn’t include Chorizo, but I love the hint of smokiness it adds, which is why it makes it into my take on this classic.
I was actually planning on doing something with a pork butt and green tea today, but after seeing Heather’s post about Orzo with Linguica and Clams at Gild the Voodoolily this morning, my menu made an abrupt turn.
For me, a truly great paella is loaded with meat and or seafood with plump grains of rice that are firm to the bite, yet coated in a layer of flavor thanks to all the ingredients it is cooked with. The seafood should be fresh, plump and succulent including things like shrimp, octopus, squid, mussels, or whatever other seafood is fresh at the fish monger today. The rice should be overflowing with umami having a velvety texture and a deep golden hue imbued by the saffron and soffrito. Most importantly, there has to be a layer of mahogany brown soccarat at the bottom of the pan from the rice and sauce caramelizing to the pan.
The following recipe achieved all my goals and best of all it’s simple enough to make on a weeknight. While I always encourage you to improvise your own version, here are a couple tips for a successful paella.
First, make sure you use the right kind of rice. Ideally, you’ll find some Arroz Valencia or Arroz Bomba, but if it’s not available, Arborio or Carnaroli will do. The second is to make sure you caramelize your soffrito, this brings out their full umami and imparting a mild sweetness. Finally, use a pan that does not have a non-stick coating. This is what encourages the development of the soccarat at the bottom of the pan.
As for the Chorizo, if you chose to add it, make sure you get the right kind of Chorizo. Mexican Chorizo is not the same. Spanish Chorizo is cured and is typically pretty dry. If in doubt, get one that’s actually from Spain.
So what’s your favorite rice dish?
- Marinate the prawns in some olive oil, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper about 30 minutes before starting the rest of the paella.
- In a chef's pan (or other large flat pan with a lid), fry the chorizo. There should be enough fat in the Chorizo so that you don't need to add any oil, but if you don't see any fat rendering out after a minute, add some olive oil. When the chorizo is nice and brown and most of the fat has rendered out, transfer it to a paper towel lined plate.
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and brown on both sides in the pan the Chorizo came from. Transfer the chicken to the plate with the chorizo.
- If there is more than 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan, use a paper towel to soak the excess up. Add the onions and bell peppers and fry until they are soft and starting to caramelize. Add the garlic and cumin and fry until the garlic is fragrant (another minute or two).
Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft. Add the rice and stir to coat then add the Chorizo, chicken, saffron, and stock. Bring to a boil then cover and turn the heat down to medium-low (you should see a steady stream of steam escaping).
- After 20 minutes, lay the shrimp on top of the rice and sprinkle the peas and asparagus on top. Cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes until the rice and shrimp are cooked.
- Serve immediately, scraping up the soccarat that forms at the bottom. Sprinkle with some parsley serve with some lemon wedges for squeezing.