As soon as the pan arrived at my sidewalk cafe table along Barcelona's La Rambla, it became abundantly clear that the paella in front of me would be an introduction to a lifelong appreciation for the Spanish dish with the most humble beginnings.
Served in a paellera (a round, shallow, polished steel pan with two handles), paella is generally considered by non-Spaniards to be the national dish of Spain. The historic Valencian dish was actually influenced by the impoverished Moorish Spaniards of Valencia who originally added the meat of marsh rats to their rice.
Thankfully, the dish evolved over time (with no rat or mystery meat ingredients) to include a wide variety of seafood, poultry, sausage (the most popular being Spanish chorizo), vegetables and a variety of seasonings added to the short grain white rice.
I've served mixed paella of chicken, shrimp and chorizo sausage at one of my soirees, much to the delight of guests. So, I thought Alamodeus readers might enjoy having a starter recipe for this delightful dish.
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and black pepper to taste
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
1 pinch saffron threads
1 bay leaf
1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 quart chicken stock
2 lemons, zested
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 pound sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or paella pan (which you can purchase in-store or on-line from the Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocina). Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and rice. Cook and stir rice to coat with oil for about 3 minutes. Stir in saffron threads, bay leaf, parsley, chicken stock, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Stir in marinated chicken and onion; cook 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and sausage; cook 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp; cook, turning the shrimp, until both sides are pink.
Spread rice mixture onto a serving tray. Top with meat and seafood mixture. Makes 8 servings.