I wish I could describe to you the first time I had paella, but I don’t remember it so I can’t. It must’ve been pretty amazing though because to this day it is my favorite dish and my wonderful mother makes it for me every year on my birthday.
Paella always seemed like a complicated recipe to me, but it’s not in the slightest, evidently a common theme in this column. Despite being simple, it’s incredibly flavorful because instead of a plethora of spices it relies on harnessing the ingredients powerful tastes.
This marks my first official time preparing this dish, because the photo of me “placing” shrimp on top of one does not count. Shout out to Tio Alvaro for helping me fool everyone with that one.
Anyways, back to the recipe.* A key part of making paella is the pan in which you prepare it. It’s round and wide and probably easier to google then have me describe it. Once you’ve acquired the pan or something similar you can begin.
Spaniards typically use olive oil to saute all the vegetables I used avocado oil. I’m no expert so maybe it affects the taste but honestly who knows…probably my abuela. In any case you’re going to pour enough to cover your pan plus a little extra and throw in 6-8 minced garlic cloves on low heat.
When the smell has permeated your kitchen and before they burn turn off the stove. Then you add your vegetables. For this version I chopped up one red pepper, one green pepper, one tomato, one yellow/white onion, peas (did not chop these) and mixed them with the garlic. The more colorful the better!
While all that’s cooking you can prep the chicken. Now some people cook the chicken with the rice because they’re professionals or they know how to time it so you’re not eating raw chicken or overcooked rice. (Or they cut it small enough) Again, I’m not either so I cook the chicken beforehand.
The thighs are the best part and I browned them in oil and garlic. Add it to the vegetable mixture. Incorporate it, add enough rice (2-3 cups) to cover the vegetables and chicken and incorporate again. Use minute rice if this is your first time.
Next involves crushing saffron (the essence that turns it into paella) and sprinkling it over your rice. Then you add chicken or vegetable broth (like 5 cups) and the shrimp, mix it all together and cover with foil. A trick my mother learned from my abuela and passed onto me is setting several magazine on top of the foil. The pressure ensures that the rice soaks up the broth.
Proceed to let this cook until it is boiling, then you can turn it on low or off. Let it sit for roughly ten minutes, or until the rice has soaked up all that flavorful goodness. This requires periodically checking. During this wait time, I sliced some lemons, as it is custom to squeeze a lemon wedge over your paella to bring out the flavors.
Remove the foil, dish it out and buen provecho!
*Measurements and ingredients may vary on pan size, personal preference and budget