About 30 years ago, my Dad had some paella in New York City, and he claims that it's one of the best meals he's ever had, so paella is now one of his favorite meals. However, there are a million ways to make paella, and all of my previous attempts fell flat. He always said, "That's good, but not IT." So for this year's birthday, I decided to step it up a notch, and this is what I came up with. The response this time: "I don't even remember what that other one tasted like, honestly. This one was great." —leah55
5 pound bag mussels
large, ripe tomatoes
blanched almonds, ideally Marcona
Italian parsley, packed
plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
package dried chorizo, cut into 1/4 inch slices
sweet pimentón de la Vera (Spanish smoked paprika)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds
chicken thighs, ideally boneless and skinless
cups chicken stock
cups Calrose or Bomba rice
About 1 bottle beer (lager works well)
In This Recipe
Place the mussels in a bowl of very cold water and place the bowl in the fridge. Every 30-40 minutes or so, change the water (for a total of at least 2 water changes). Slice tomatoes in half, and grate each on a box grater over a bowl. Discard skins; set pulp aside. In a food processor or mortar, puree parsley, garlic and almonds with a tablespoon or two of water until smooth.
Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Add chorizo pieces to pan and cook until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Season shrimp with salt and 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Sear the shrimp in the hot pan until golden brown and almost cooked through.
With a slotted spoon, remove shrimp. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, add to same pan, and brown on one side until deep golden. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Set 18-inch paella pan over two burners at high heat on the stove top, and heat 1/3 cup olive oil. Add tomato pulp and cook until darkened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika and 1/4 teaspoon saffron, and cook for about 1 minute. Add chicken pieces and sherry and cook until sherry is evaporated (you'll have liquid in the pan, but no longer be able to smell the sherry). Add chicken stock; bring to a boil.
Stir garlic, almond and parsley puree into the pan. Sprinkle rice across the pan and stir until the grains are submerged, then don't stir again. Add red peppers. Cook on high heat for 10 minutes, rotating the pan on the two burners to distribute heat. Using a small spoon, test rice and stock and add salt as needed.
Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Test rice again. If the rice is drying out but still needs some more cooking time in order for it to tenderize, add some beer (or water or chicken stock) to the dry spots. The amount of beer needed will vary greatly depending on your rice, heat, etc., but we used about a bottle of beer.
If the rice is still hard, turn the heat down to low and continue to cook the rice until all parts of the dish are tender. You might need to intermittently cover the pan with a big sheet of tin foil. I wish that I could give you more specific directions, but I think that this is one of those dishes that you have to watch and play with, at least until you're practiced with it. We found that our total cooking time for the rice was about 50 minutes, about 10 of which were covered.
When all of the rice is tender but a little bit of extra liquid remains in the pan, scatter the mussels over the top, scatter the shrimp and peas around. Cover with tin foil and cook for about 5-7 more minutes, until the mussels are open.
In this last little part, listen for a crackling sound to ensure the bottom is toasting but not burning. It might be necessary to increase the heat to medium-high, but again, listen and pay attention to the dish. Remove from heat, leave the foil cover in place, and let sit for 5 minutes.
Use a metal spoon to scrape toasted rice from bottom of pan and serve.