Upon obtaining my first box of saffron spice, I immediately set out to make paella—and was thrilled to discover that its gorgeous, authentic-looking presentation belies the simplicity behind the dish. A bit healthier than the traditional, my recipe uses minimal oil, amps up the veggies, and brown rice—yet preserves the classic paella flavor with lots of saffron and sweet paprika. —KvellintheKitchen
medium yellow onion, finely chopped
garlic cloves, minced
dried bay leaf
tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or 1 15oz can diced tomatoes, drained)
canned artichoke hearts, quartered
roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips
dash of cayenne pepper (optional; for heat)
A generous pinch of saffron threads (about 30 threads or a scant ½ tsp)
whole grain rice (traditionally short-grain rice such as Arborio or Valencia is used, but Basmati, Jasmine, and Brown can be substituted)
low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
dry white wine (plus 1/2 cup; see note below)
Crush saffron threads and place in a small bowl with ¼ cup hot water. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large, shallow skillet over medium heat. Cook onions until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cooking for one additional minute, and paprika, bay leaf, and tomatoes; cooking for 2-3 minutes more.
Add rice, stirring well until all the grains are coated. Pour in saffron mixture and broth, chicken broth, wine, and a generous sprinkle of salt; bring to a boil. Add artichokes, peas, and peppers.
Reduce heat to low and cook the rice, without stirring, for 10 minutes, rotating the pan to ensure that the rice cooks evenly. (If at any point the rice seems too dry or you hear crackly frying noises before it’s done, add more broth.)
After 10 minutes, add the shrimp, and turn when they become pink on the first side. Nestle in mussels hinge-side down*, and cook until mussels have opened and rice has absorbed the liquid (al dente), 5-10 minutes more. Discard any mussels that remain closed.
Remove pan from heat, cover with aluminum foil, and let sit for 5 minutes until serving.
*Note: Only cook the mussels with the rice if you have ample room for them to open when the lid of the pot is on. Between the cooked rice and shrimp, I didn't have room, so I cooked them separately. To do this, place mussels in a large pot with 1/2 cup wine and salt & pepper. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a steady bubble (you'll hear it and see some steam escaping.) Cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. If most mussels shells are still closed, cover again and cook for a few more minutes. Discard any mussels that remain closed, and add to paella pot when the shrimp is finished.