Paella is a medley of rice with seafood, chicken and chorizo sausage or similar ingredients depending on what's available in your part of the world. In Alaska, we have an abundance of wild seafood, so for this recipe I used Alaska Spot shrimp that Audrey and I caught in Prince William Sound and mussels I picked up at my favorite fish market. The secret to making this right is the socarrat, or the crispy bottom of the paella that becomes caramelized and toasted when it's cooking. This is where the flavor lives. The smoky flavor comes from the chorizo and paprika and of course the saffron adds an indescribable flavor - there is literally no substitute for it in the spice world. Some say it lends a semi-sweet taste to the dish. To me it's more of an aroma that you taste (if that makes sense). This traditional Spanish dish is a social affair from the cooking to the eating so pour yourself a glass of wine and gather your peeps in the kitchen and start cooking. ~Patti
16 large Alaska Spot shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed
8 ounces chorizo sausage, sliced
16 mussels, or clams, scrubbed and cleaned
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, skin on or off (your choice)
3 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, minced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 cups uncooked medium-grain rice
4 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 pinch saffron threads (5-6 threads)
4 teaspoons smoked paprika
fresh ground pepper and salt to taste
1/3 cup frozen (or fresh) peas
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1-2 lemons, cut into wedges for serving
It's important to use a paellera, or paella pan when making this dish. See note at the end of this post.
Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons olive oil into your paella pan. Add onion, parsley and garlic, saute on low about 8 minutes until onions are soft. Add 2 of the tomatoes and 2 teaspoons of the smoked paprika. Cook on low heat until jam-like and very fragrant, about 15 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. This is called the 'sofrito', or sauce base, consisting of tomatoes, onion, etc. in Latin American cooking.
While your sofrito is cooking, put shrimp in a bowl and season with salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika. Toss to combine. Place chicken thighs in a bowl, salt and pepper to taste, refrigerate both.
Cook your chorizo slices in your paella pan for 2-3 minutes until fat is rendered and they start to brown. Remove chorizo and set aside but leave the rendered fat from the chorizo.
Now put your chicken in the pan and sear both sides in the nice chorizo fat until golden brown and almost cooked, about 6-8 minutes. Take the chicken out and set in the bowl with the chorizo. Don't remove any of those bits and pieces left in the pan!
Put the peppers into the paella pan and sauté for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add the sofrito and saffron and last remaining teaspoon of the paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
A little saffron goes a long way - the flavor is intense, so a 5 minute soak in a teaspoon of warm water or white wine is a great way to release flavor and help disperse it more evenly.
Add the remaining minced tomato and mix in. Cook about 3 minutes until mixture has darkened slightly.
Cover with foil and do not stir rice from this point! Let it go at a lively simmer for about 12-15 minutes until the rice has swelled and absorbed the liquid. You may need to move the pan occasionally if it's a lot bigger than the burner.
Add shrimp and shellfish, nestling into the rice, and sprinkle peas on top.
Cover with foil again and let cook on low until shrimp are done and shellfish have opened, about 5 minutes. Rice should be al dente. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley, serve with lemon wedges and enjoy your beautiful creation!
A paellera, or paella pan, is important for cooking this dish. It's the perfect shape and size and distributes the heat evenly to get that crisp rice layer on the bottom (where the flavor lives). Plus it makes a great centerpiece to serve out of. But if you don't have one, you can use a large skillet with low sides.
|Here I am picking out fresh mussels at New Sagaya market in Anchorage and Audrey holding Alaska Spot shrimp we caught in Prince William Sound, Alaska.|