Yes, this dish is very much inspired by paella. There’s lots of smoky paprika and a sofrito base, which is a mixture of bell pepper, onion, garlic, and tomato, and the traditional starting place for many Spanish dishes, from fideua to stewed oxtails. But without a paella pan and calasparra or bomba rice, this recipe is a way for me to get paella feelings, using the ingredients and equipment already in my kitchen. If I’ve got the time, I like to dry-brine the chicken overnight, so it’s seasoned to the bone and the skin gets super crisp. The sofitro puree is cooked down into a concentrated, jammy, brick-red paste that flavors the whole dish and adds so much richness that we don’t need any stock. If you don’t have smoked paprika, don’t fret—the sofrito adds so much flavor, you won’t miss a thing. I like to serve this rice with a few heavy splashes of extra-virgin olive oil and squeeze of fresh lemon, adding the same richness and flavor of the homemade aioli you’d typically find alongside paella. And if I’m feeling fresh, I’ll add a flourish of chopped parsley—but the dish is just as bright and vibrant without it.
Want to riff on it? Try this recipe next: One-Skillet Garam Masala Chicken Thighs & Saffron Rice. And head here to read more about the technique, so you can off-script it however you want. —Sohla El-Waylly
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
- Serves 4
smoked paprika, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons
kosher salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds
(4 to 6) bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
1 1/4 cups
medium- or long-grain rice (like basmati or jasmine)
medium (8-ounce) red bell pepper, roughly chopped
medium (8-ounce) yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
medium (12-ounce) beefsteak tomato, roughly chopped
green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
Fresh parsley, to serve (optional)
lemon, cut into wedges
- Stir together 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and the black pepper in a small bowl. Pat-dry the chicken with paper towels and evenly season with the paprika mixture. You can cook the chicken right away or dry-brine by arranging on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for up to 24 hours.
- Place the rice in a medium bowl. Cover with cool tap water, use your hand to gently agitate the grains, and drain. Repeat at least 2 more times until water runs clear enough to see your hand through it. Cover with cool tap water and set aside to soak while you prepare the rest of the dish (this helps the rice cook evenly).
- In a small food processor or blender, puree the red bell pepper, onion, and garlic until smooth, adding a splash of water if needed.
- In a medium cast-iron pan or high-sided skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the chicken, skin side-down. Cook until the skin is deeply golden brown, the fat has rendered, and the chicken effortlessly releases from the pan, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate. (If your chicken thighs are large, brown them well on both sides before transferring to a plate.)
- Add the pepper puree, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, and a big pinch of kosher salt to the residual schmaltzy oil in the skillet. Cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally at first and more frequently as it cooks down, until the puree is thick, brick-red, and the fat has broken out, 5 to 7, minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with a big pinch of salt, and cook until tender and soft, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Drain the rice. Add the rice and green beans to the skillet, and stir to combine. Add 2 cups of water, season with salt until the cooking liquid tastes as seasoned as you want your final dish to taste, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Nestle chicken thighs into rice, pouring over any juices that accumulated while the chicken sat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, simmering gently until the rice has absorbed all the water and everything is cooked through and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. (If the water evaporates before the rice has cooked through, add a few splashes of water across the rice and continue cooking.)
- Remove from the heat and rest for 10 minutes before drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with parsley if you’re using it. Serve with the lemon wedges alongside.