Prep Time 1.5 hours Cook Time 30 minutes Yield: 8 Servings
3 TB extra virgin olive oil, divided
6 + 1 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups rice
1/4 tsp saffron threads
2 bay leaves
1 quart chicken stock
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 med white onion, diced
¾ lb smoked sausage, cubed
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, rinsed and drained
1 lb mussels, cleaned (frozen OK)
1 cup frozen peas, drained of ice
2 lemons zested
Prep time: Not only am I a slow chopper, but I usually place all of the ingredients in wax paper and baggies, which takes some extra time. If I know I’ll be busy leading up to the time to start cooking, I chop all the ingredients in the morning, then line up the baggies at cook time. Even when I chop just before cooking, I still line ingredients up because once you heat the oil, cooking in three different pans moves quickly.
Chopping: The ultimate goal is to be able to fit multiple ingredients in one spoon-/forkful so that you have an explosion of flavor in your mouth. Ex: rice with a small piece of onion, a small bite of bell pepper, a small slice of sausage and a small bite of chicken. This gives you an idea of chopping size.
Sausage/chorizo: You can use smoked (the “u” link) or chorizo (remove the casing and let it crumble). Note that chorizo will add a layer of chorizo grease to the chicken, bell pepper and onions, giving the entire dish a different type of flavor (but it’s still very tasty!).
Mussels: If you use the frozen kind, be sure to remove any ice that’s formed on them before dropping them into the paella. If you use fresh mussels, be sure to read up on how to store them. (Refrigerate in a bowl covered with a damp cloth.) After cooking, I wouldn’t spend too much time looking for unopened mussels (and thyme stems and bay leaves) because your rice will cool off and dry out. Instead, remind everyone to discard unopened mussels, as well as stems and leaves.
Meat and seafood: If you don’t eat meat or seafood, simply substitute your favorite proteins.
Rice: There are specific types of Spanish rice to use, but since I can’t find them, I buy whatever type of white rice is available. If you rinse the rice, that will remove the starch and make the rice less sticky, but I always skip this step…one less thing to do. The key to the rice isn’t the type or even the pan; it’s making sure your pan is level so that the rice cooks evenly in first the broth, then the steam that’s held in by your lid or foil. Don’t keep peeking at the rice; this lets the steam out!
Saffron: This spice costs more per ounce than silver, but it’s the most important spice in this dish. If I have extra in my stash, I’ve been known to use a 1/2 teaspoon.
Timer: Timing really does matter on the rice, otherwise you’ll overcook it. I encourage you to use a timer because you’ll be cooking in two other pans at the same time.
Paella purists: They’ll tell you to never combine seafood and meat. But I do. I love the flavors together!
In a very wide pan or paella pan, preheated over medium high heat, add 2 TB olive oil, turning the pan to coat, and sauté minced garlic (6 cloves) and red pepper flakes until coated in oil. Add rice and sauté 2 or 3 minutes until rice is turning golden. Add stock, saffron threads, bay leaves, and thyme. Stir gently to mix and even out rice along the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover pan with lid or foil and reduce heat to simmer. Set the timer for 13 minutes.
While the rice is cooking:
In a separate nonstick skillet over medium high heat with 1 TB olive oil, turning the pan to coat, cook the chicken (seasoned with salt and pepper). Add peppers and onions to the pan and cook about 3 minutes longer until onions begin to turn translucent. Add sausage/chorizo to the pan and cook 4 minutes more or until ingredients looked completely cooked/heated, but onions aren’t limp. Remove pan from heat.
In a separate skillet over medium high heat with olive oil, season the shrimp with salt and pepper, then cook. When shrimp begin to start turning pink, add remaining garlic and sauté until shrimp is cooked. Remove from heat.
Back to the rice:
After about 13 minutes from the time you covered the rice, uncover and evenly scatter peas and lemon zest over the rice, then add mussels, nesting them in the cooking rice. If you discover that the rice has cooked unevenly, carefully pour a bit of chicken stock over the dry areas. Cover the pan again. After 8-10 minutes (whatever the steaming instructions are for the mussels you bought), remove cover/foil from the paella and discard any unopened mussels. Stir rice and seafood mixture and lift out bay leaves and thyme stems (bare of leaves). Add cooked chicken, peppers, onions, chorizo and shrimp around the pan.
Optional: Top with parsley and scallions. Serve with wedges of lemon and warm bread.
I used this as my base recipe, then tweaked it according to my taste preferences.
For the complete guide to time management, which will give you the time to do what you love – like cook and eat paella – check out The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer.