Recipe and photos contributed to Hispanic Kitchen by Veronica Shine
When one walks along the Mediterranean Sea in Spain, year-round front-line restaurants always serve the largest meal of the day at 1:30 p.m. The aroma you will often encounter is that of paella cooking.
Although many dispute the paella’s origins, the word derives from the Valencian language (a dialect of Catalan), and which is making resurgence all throughout the Valencia area. The word paella translates as a flat basket or surface. It appears that the dish itself did not have a name, instead being known for the item used to cook it in.
In other areas, some consider the word paella to have roots stemming from the Latin “patella” meaning pan. In Catalonia in northeastern Spain, the Catalans use the word “paele.” The pan used for paella is easily recognizable — it is shallow and circular. The paella pan’s original use was for cooking rice alone.
From cooking rice in the paella, recipe ideas flourished. Whatever was available and in season was thrown in, including peas, potatoes, chicken, rabbit or seafood and rice.
Different regions of Spain had their own recipes, but the traditional paella for a coastal family tends to utilize many fruits of the sea. The recipe is delicious, easy to change according to your own personal taste, and is certainly a feast. Serve it up with a loaf of bread and a pitcher of chilled sangria.
Yields 6 to 8 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 bacon slices, chopped
2 chicken leg/thigh pieces
2 chicken breasts
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium onions)
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Valencia-style rice or pearl rice (a thicker, shorter grain)
1 seven-ounce jar roasted sliced pimentos with juice
1 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
2 cups canned seafood stock
1 to 2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 pound chorizo (sausage), sliced into inch-thick pieces
1 pound large uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 dozen clams, scrubbed very well
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed very well
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
2. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp, (about 6 minutes). Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Leave liquid in pan.
3. Season chicken legs and breasts with salt and pepper. Add chicken to the bacon fat in the frying pan and cook over medium heat until brown on all sides. This takes about 7 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
4. Add onions and garlic to pan and sauté until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in roasted pimientos with its juices, rice, saffron, seafood stock and chicken stock to a pot and allow mixture to simmer for 20 minutes. If the liquid goes down, add more stock. Remove from heat.
5. Pour rice mixture into a paella pan. Arrange chicken, sausage slices, shrimp, clams and mussels in rice mixture. Sprinkle with chopped bacon, peas and any other vegetable you desire. In Spain, asparagus is a common addition.
6. Cover with foil.
7. Bake paella until chicken is cooked through, clams and mussels have opened; and rice is tender, which should take about 40 minutes. Remove foil or lid from baking dish. Let paella stand 10 minutes. Add lemon wedges as a garnish around pan.