Catalonia 1939, somewhere on the frontier with France: “Guapa, the Franco fascist brats are almost on top of us. What do we do now?” “Pierino, the cause is not lost, the Ramones have swum across the Ebro, and they’ve brought their baseball bats. They’re going to beat on the brats. Now let’s make paella and love before we die”. “Cara mia!” And they did, and it was good. This is our “go to” paella recipe. It combines bomba rice, saffron for color and taste, chorizo, peppers and vegetable and an assortment of your favorite mollusks and crustaceans---you decide based on what’s most fresh. Pierino likes to include the smallest clams he can find; manilas, cockles, tiny little golden ones. But diver scallops, spot prawns and even lobster are fine. Toss a rabbit in there if you would like, or as in this case chicken wings, as well as a can of helix snails if you can handle that. Many recipes call for paella to be cooked in the oven. In our opinion a paella should always be cooked on an outdoor grill or gas ring, and if that’s not possible on a cook top burner. The reason for this is that one of the essential dimensions is the “soccarat”, the slightly overcooked (burnt) bottom that you can’t achieve without a direct source of heat. And be generous with your saffron, guapa. It should finish looking like a big old, fat yellow sun. - pierino —pierino
Test Kitchen Notes
We loved the dominant saffron flavors in this paella, which paired well with the chicken and chorizo. As pierino notes, make sure you have a high flame going so you can achieve soccarat - the crispy, near burnt bits at the bottom of the pan. We followed his instructions and ours turned out lovely! – Lauren —The Editors
Spanish style bomba rice (or substitute Arborio or carnaroli rice, but it must be a short grained rice)
2 cups chicken stock
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ pound Spanish style chorizo sausage (see notes on sources)
1 piquillo pepper, cut into strips (or substitute roasted red pepper)
¼ pound green beans, preferably the smaller French haricot (or substitute lima beans)
1 pound chicken wings
½ pound fresh, alive, alive-o clams (don’t even think about substituting canned clams)
4-6 head on, shell on, shrimp or prawns, depending on their size
A generous pinch or pinches of saffron threads, not the orange colored saw dust
Sea salt and pepper
In This Recipe
Get your mise set up. Chop the shallots and garlic, slice the chorizo and cut into half moons or pie shaped wedges, and slice the piquillo. Trim the beans by yanking the strings if necessary, clipping the ends and then slicing them in half. Blanch them in boiling water and then quickly plunge them into an icy bath to set the color.
Start a fire going on your Weber or whatever grill you are using (assuming you are cooking outside). Get your stock to a steady, but slow simmer. For this I prefer to use a small Burton butane burner because the stock is right there as soon as I’m ready to use it. Otherwise have your broth on the cooktop close at hand to you paella pan.
Add a pinch of saffron to your simmering stock.
Place your pan on the grill grate or gas burner (please note that you will need a lid of some kind, closing the kettle up, or a flat lid that fits your pan, or in estrema; tin foil. This is because once the shellfish go in it all has to be covered up so that your little mollusks steam up and open (hopefully)).
Your grill is hot? Yeah? Spread some olive oil around, along with shallot, garlic and that beautiful chorizo. Get that sizzling a bit.You could splash in a little bit of white wine right now to deglaze. Add the chicken wings and brown those. When the wings are colored up and a bit crispy, remove them temporarily to a plate on the side.
Add the rice and push it all around with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add your hot broth all at once (you’re not making risotto). Maybe add some more saffron, but working quickly, arrange beans and peppers---fan them out to look pretty. Once you’ve added the stock you are not going to stir it anymore. Just keep that hot flame going underneath.
After about 15 minutes add your clams, prawns, scallops etc. as well as the chicken wings. If you are using snails add those now too. Cover again. Allow up to 5-7 minutes for this to finish. You will know when the clams pop open of their own accord. Discard clams that don’t open. Better safe than sorry. Now, plate it up!
Notes to cook: finding good chorizo might sound difficult but actually it's not. Most Spanish charcuterie is prohibited by the idiotic agencies that prohibit this stuff. However La Espanola www.donajuana.com has created a specialty of recreating regional Spanish sausages. I've been buying their products for more than 20 years. I'm willing to bet that if you dine in a Spanish restaurant in the USA the chorizo that you are eating was manufactured at their family run plant in Harbor City. Another great American success story. Other Spanish products (including paella pans) can be ordered from The Spanish Table or Tienda on-line.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.