A Schmaltzy, No-Seafood (Read: Easier) Paella

February 22, 2018

Chicken thighs have everything in spades: price, flavor, succulence, culinary versatility, and they are very, very hard to overcook. Try it for kicks—cook and cook and cook them and they just become more tender and fall off the bone. Chicken breasts, on the other hand, go from done to stringy in a hot minute. While bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs have the best flavor (not to mention all the free schmaltz that renders out of the skin when you crisp it), the boneless skinless variety is now available in many shops.

Chicken thighs have so much dinner flexibility that you could whip up a veritable United Nations of meals with one pack of thighs: Thai coconut curry chicken, French coq au vin, Chinese chicken stir-fry, Moroccan chicken tagine, Indian tikka masala, and arroz con pollo in the style of several different Latin American countries. Thighs have just enough fat clinging to them to add an unctuousness to every dish. You can opt to brown whole thighs before building your dish to render out the delicious chicken schmaltz from the skin and add an extra layer of caramelized meaty flavor, or just nestle pieces of the boneless-skinless variety (uncooked) into a simmering base for a gentler flavor.

To prove the point of thigh superiority, I cite a personal story: Last year, during a summer jaunt to the Adirondacks with two other families (which included a total of 4 chefs), we were put to the chicken thigh test. We had each been tasked to arrive with the fixings for one dinner to share (the nearest grocery store was 40 miles away). And what did we all pack in our coolers? That’s right: packs and packs of chicken thighs.

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No one complained, even after night #3, because those thighs turned into the very different meals of roasted chicken shawarma, grilled lemon-rosemary-garlic chicken, and finally, the chicken and green olive paella recipe below. Chicken thighs play well with every ingredient under the sun, so this is a dish you can riff on to your heart's content.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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FrugalCat March 29, 2018
My mom doesn't eat shellfish (allergic to iodine and kosher) so this sounds perfect for her.
Katie B. February 22, 2018
Just wanted to check, how much rice does this recipe call for?
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Jennifer C. February 22, 2018
Thanks for the heads up that the rice amount was missing! 1 ½ cups short-grain white rice (like Italian Arborio or Spanish Bomba). Will make sure that is edited online now!
Katie B. February 22, 2018
Thank you so much! Can't wait to try this.
ChefJune February 22, 2018
Truth to tell, in Spain Paella is as likely to NOT have seafood in it as the other way. Paella is a peasant dish, and toe makers use what's close at hand. Thus, if one doesn't live near the ocean, one is unlikely to use fish of any kind. Paella is commonly made with sausage and rabbit - even squirrel.