August 11, 2010


My gardener gets to choose the menu on his birthday and for his milestone birthday this year, (I'm not tellin'!) he chose Paella. 

My daughter had given me a paella pan, rice, and smoked paprika for Christmas, so all I needed were the ingredients.  I decided to do a mixed paella with shrimp, mussels, and chicken. The chicken thighs are the pasty white blobs you see in the above picture. I grilled them, but removed the skin when I added them to the pan. Next time I'll brown them first.

This was a really fun dish to make! I scoured the Internet for recipes and decided that making paella is more of a technique than a recipe. 

The basis for the paella is the sofrito, which is a tomato and onion sauce. I read that a really good paella takes at least two hours to make, so I started early and was glad I did. The whole process took about 2-1/2 hours. 

After the paella is cooked, the heat is turned to high until you smell the wonderful caramelized rice that is called soccarat. You can hear the crackle of the rice as it turns a beautiful brown color and ends with a nutty flavor. 

Here's a good tutorial for making paella. I won't be waiting for another birthday to make another version of paella. It's so good! 

2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 T fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes
4 T olive oil, divided use
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 ½ cups rice
8 oz clam juice
2 cups stock (vegetable or chicken), heated
Large pinch of saffron
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup frozen peas
32 frozen shrimp (raw)
32 clams or mussels
1 can artichoke hearts (not marinated in oil)
4 cooked chicken thighs, bone-in

  1.  Using a box grater, process the tomatoes and discard the skin.
  2. Make the sofrito:  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in paella pan, and over medium heat, cook the onion, parsley and garlic for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and smoked paprika. Cook until all the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated and the sofrito is the consistency of jam. This may take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Put the sofrito into a small bowl. Wipe pan clean.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in paella pan over medium heat. Cook red and green peppers for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the sofrito to the paella pan and rice. Stir to coat the rice.
  5. Stir the salt and pepper into the hot stock and add a pinch of saffron. Stir to combine and bring to a medium-high simmer. Cook uncovered without stirring for 10 minutes.
  6. Lower heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes without stirring.
  7.  After 15 minutes, scatter peas over the paella. Push shrimp, clams and mussels into the rice. Top with artichoke hearts, then cooked chicken thighs.
  8. Turn up the heat to medium-high for a minute or two until you can smell the rice toasting at the bottom, then remove pan from heat. The toasted rice bottom of a paella is called socorrat.
  9. Cover the pan with foil and let paella rest for 10 minutes.
  10. Serve directly from the paella pan along with lemon wedges.

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