Nourishing, vibrant, and served without pretension, paella has held a place of honor and practicality in Spanish homes for centuries.The earliest kinds of paella were products of purely local ingredients and eating habits. The dish exists because of rice, and rice has existed in Valencia and its environs ever since the Moors planted it there more than 1,300 years ago, in a lagoon called the Albufera, where the grain is still grown today. Saffron, that precious and earthy spice, brought to Spain by Arab traders in the tenth century, was the Moors' preferred seasoning for rice, and it remains a traditional paella ingredient.
Basic Paella Recipe
While the recipe appears long, making the paella is simple and easy, especially with the provided ingredients from the To-Table Paella Kit. There are tips on how to make the paella turn out even better making the easy recipe appear complicated.
- 4 1/2 cups chicken broth; more if necessary
- Pinch saffron threads (about 20 threads) (from To-Table Paella Kit)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 chicken thighs, chopped in half across the bone with a meat cleaver
- Chorizo (from To-Table Paella Kit) cut into slices
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut in 1-inch wide strips
- 1 small whole head garlic
- 1 Jar artichokes hearts - quartered (optional)
- Small handful green beans, trimmed
- 1 jar Sofrito (from To-Table Paella Kit)
- Peppiras (from To-Table Paella Kit)
- 1 1/2 cups medium grain Bomba Rice rice (from To-Table Paella Kit)
- 2 lemons, cut in wedges
Make the saffron broth:
In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil; lower to a simmer. Toast the saffron gently in a dry skillet or toaster oven (just until aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes; don't let them burn). Crumble the threads in a mortar or between your fingers, and add to the broth. Taste and add salt if necessary (it should be very well-seasoned, salted as if it were a soup). Remove from the heat until you're ready to add to the rice.
Saute the meat and vegetables:
Season the chicken pieces (or for the more adventurous, use the old Spanish ingredient - Rabbit) generously with salt and pepper. Pour the olive into the paella pan (from To-Table Paella Kit). Over medium high heat, sauté the chicken until browned, 10 to 15 minutes. After first 10 minutes, add the slices of chorizo. (note: if you want to add or substitute sliced Sepia (cuttlefish) for the chicken for a seafood paella, brown the sepia here)Transfer to a platter.
Reduce the heat to medium low. In the paella pan, cook the red pepper and head of garlic until the peppers are completely limp but not brown, 15 to 20 min. Transfer the peppers to a plate (leave the garlic in the pan) and cover with aluminum foil. Add the artichoke hearts (if using) to the pan, and after 5 min., add the green beans. Sauté until the artichokes are tender and the green beans are soft and wrinkled, about 10 min.
Meanwhile, peel the skin off the red peppers. Transfer the green beans and artichokes to a plate. All of the above can be done well before starting the paella.
About a half hour before you're ready to eat, bring the broth back to a simmer and set the paella pan with the jar of sofrito over your largest burner (or over two burners) on medium high heat. Add the rice, stirring until it's opaque, 1 to 2 min.
Spread the rice in the pan, put the head of garlic in the center, and pour in the hot broth. Shake the pan a bit to make sure the rice is evenly distributed. Arrange the chicken (or sepia), chorizo, artichokes, red peppers, and green beans in the pan. Distribute peppiras on top. Do not stir the rice from this point on. Simmer vigorously, moving the pan over one and two burners to distribute the heat and to cook the rice as evenly as possible. When the rice is at the same level as the liquid, after 8 to 10 min., reduce the heat to medium low. When making a seafood paella, add mussels and peeled shrimp at this point distributing throughout the paella evenly.
Continue to simmer more gently, rotating the pan as necessary, until the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 min. more. Taste a grain just below the top layer of rice; it should be al dente, with a tiny white dot in the center. (If the rice is not done but all the liquid has been absorbed, add a bit more broth or water to the pan and cook a few minutes more.)
Create the Socarrat:
Increase the heat to medium-high and, rotating the pan, cook for about 2 min., until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating the socarrat ( a thin carmelized crust ). The rice will crackle, but if it starts to smell burned, remove the pan from the heat immediately.
Rest and Serve the Paella:
Remove the pan from the heat. Cover loosely with foil or a clean kitchen towel and let the paella rest for 5 min. to even the cooking and let the flavors meld.