Despite its many ingredients, a finished paella is all about the rice and the flavor that the other elements impart to it. For that reason, it’s vital to use an actual paella (which is both the name of the dish AND the flat, round stainless-steel pan in which it’s cooked). You want the rice to cook evenly, without clumping, and be exposed to all of the other flavoring agents. Mom’s paella is 17 inches in diameter.
(Although many people include shrimp in their paella, my parents didn’t because I am allergic to it. You can certainly add them—and other kinds of protein—if you like. The only issue to be aware of is the water content of any extra ingredients, which may require you to tinker with the amount of stock you add to the rice.) —Sofia Perez
- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour
- Serves 6
small to medium mussels (scale quantity up or down, according to taste)
medium clams (again, use more or less, as you like)
Kosher salt, to taste
large pinch saffron
medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 to 5
garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
small to medium peeled tomatoes, peeled and diced (about 12 ounces)
green bell pepper, diced (about 8 ounces)
fresh parsley, minced (you can use dried as well, though less)
frozen or fresh shelled peas
fresh Spanish chorizos, sliced into 1/3-inch thick rounds
chicken drumsticks, with about an inch of the bone end hacked off (you can save the bone ends for future stock-making); if the legs are large and meaty, cut them in half so that the pieces are comparable in size and cook evenly
Lobster tails, 2 small or 1 medium to large, removed from shell(s) and cut into 1-inch pieces
extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups
bomba rice (You can substitute with Arborio, but bomba is the best for this dish.)
6 to 8
green asparagus stalks, cooked and cut in half, for garnish
jarred pimientos (we use Goya), sliced into long strips, for garnish
hard-boiled eggs, cut in egg slicer for uniformity, for garnish
- PREP: It’s crucial to complete your mise en place before assembling the dish. Once you put the pan on the stovetop, everything happens very quickly, and you do not want the rice (or anything else) to burn, so you have to have to be ready to go.
- Boil mussels in a large pot of lightly salted water, just until the shells open. (Make sure to use at least 6 cups of water because you want to end up with at least 4 cups when you’re done opening both the mollusks and the clams.) Remove each mollusk as soon as it opens. Discard any that don’t open. Take off the top half of the shell on six mussels (toss the empty half), and extract the mussels from the other 18, discarding the entire shell. Put all 24 mussels in a bowl and cover with a damp paper towel so that they don’t dry out.
- Boil the clams in the same pot of water where you just prepped the mussels. Steam just until the shells open. Remove immediately. Discard any clams that don’t open. Remove the top half of the shell on ALL of the clams and toss it. Put the clams (still in their bottom shell) in a bowl and cover with a damp paper towel so that they don’t dry out.
- After you’ve finished prepping the clams and mussels, strain the water at least twice (through cheesecloth) to remove any sand and dirt that was released. Keep in mind, however, that the water won’t be perfectly clear—it will have a cloudy white hue. Measure out 4 cups of this water and put the rest aside in case you need to add a little more to the pan when the rice is cooking. (Any stock that’s left over can be frozen for future rice dishes).
- Add saffron to the 4 cups of mollusk water, and salt to taste. (We generally do not add any salt when we make this because the combo of the salted water and the seafood jus is salty enough for us, but remember that this is the only salt you’ll be adding to the dish—except for lightly salting the chicken, if you like—so adjust to suit your taste.) Bring the water to a boil, uncovered, and make sure it has a golden hue from the saffron as this is what is going to color your rice. After it boils, shut off the burner and cover the pot to keep it warm.
- If using frozen peas, be sure to run a little warm water over them to thaw them out and strain. (You don’t want any ice on them because it will release extra water that will throw off the cooking time for your rice.)
- Heat 4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, and lightly brown the chicken (salt first, if desired), just until it golden on the outside. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve the leftover oil for when you assemble the paella. (The reason for browning the chicken separately is that you do not want the skin sticking to the stainless steel paella.)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- ASSEMBLY: If you are using an aluminum utensil to stir the ingredients, you must switch to a wooden spoon after you’ve added the tomatoes, or the aluminum will react with the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Put the flat paella (pan) on your stovetop, and add the olive oil that was left over from browning your chicken, plus the remaining 3 to 4 tablespoons oil. (You should have about 7 to 8 tablespoons total. If not, add enough oil to reach that total.) Warm the oil a bit, but do not let it smoke.
- Add the garlic and stir frequently, about 1 minute. Add the onion, and let it soften, stirring frequently, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the green pepper and the parsley, stirring frequently, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken and chorizo slices, allowing the chorizo to caramelize a little, but stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
- Add the rice and stir frequently (but gently), making sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom and that it’s evenly distributed around the pan, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato, making sure it’s evenly distributed. (Switch to a wooden utensil if you have been stirring with an aluminum one.)
- Add the frozen peas and then the saffron-seafood stock, pouring the liquid in slowly to make sure it doesn’t spill over. (That’s in case your ingredients have given off more water than expected.) You can add more water later if you think the rice needs it. Then add the mussels, clams, and lobster tail(s), nestling the half-shells into the pan so that they are at least partially covered.
- Let everything simmer over a low flame for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring (very gently) if needed, to make sure the rice is mostly covered in stock and that your ingredients are well distributed. Carefully move the pan to the oven.
- Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, checking on the rice after 25 minutes to see if it needs more stock. (If so, pour in a small amount gently, in a circular around the pan, to make sure the stock is being evenly distributed to the entire dish.)
- Once the rice is properly cooked, remove the pan from the oven, and garnish with the hard-boiled egg slices, asparagus, and red pepper strips. Serve immediately.