Paella is a rice-based dish that originated from Valencia, Spain. Although we’ve never had the pleasure of eating truly authentic paella while actually in Spain, Dan’s favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh serves the best version 0f paella he’s ever tasted. We’ve attempted this dish at home a couple of times, without much success until we found this recipe by celebrity chef Tyler Florence and tweaked it a bit to make it our own. While not quite as good as the restaurant version, it’s a pretty close second, with rich flavors from the chicken and saffron-infused rice, a little spice from the chorizo and buttery sweetness from the lobster and shrimp. This is a great recipe to make during the holiday season, whether you are entertaining friends or simply relaxing at home with loved ones. It’s the kind of dish that invites family-style dining in a celebratory way. Plus, it’s as delicious as it is festive.
Paella ingredients include: chicken thighs, sweet paprika, dried oregano, olive oil, Spanish chorizo sausage, onion, garlic, parsley, a can of whole tomatoes, short grain Valencia rice, chicken broth, saffron, white wine, lobster tails, shrimp and salt & pepper.
Combine the paprika, oregano and a generous dash each of salt and fresh ground pepper in a small bowl and mix them together. Trim any visible fat from the chicken, cut each thigh into 2-4 pieces, then toss the chicken with the spice mixture. Set the chicken aside to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Place a generous pinch of saffron threads in about 2 tablespoons of white wine in a small bowl or ramekin and set aside to infuse while you prepare the other ingredients.
Mince the garlic and chop up the onion and parsley (reserve some chopped parsley to use as garnish when the paella is done.)
Cut the chorizo into thick half-moon slices. Spanish chorizo is a bit different than Mexican chorizo in that it is cured, more dense and retains its texture when you cook it more than Mexican chorizo does. If you can’t find Spanish chorizo, you could use Andouille sausage or even Kielbasa instead.
Heat the oil in a paella pan (can’t wait to use our new one, a Christmas gift from my brother Jesson — thank you!) or wide and deep skillet over medium-high heat and saute the chorizo until browned on all sides — about 5-7 minutes. Remove the chorizo to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
Add the chicken to the same oil used to saute the chorizo and cook over medium-high heat until the chicken is browned on all sides. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside. While the chicken cooks, bring the chicken broth just to a boil in a small pot, then turn off the heat and cover the pot to keep the broth warm.
Reduce the heat to medium and saute the onion, parsley and garlic in the same oil until the onions just begin to soften — about 2-3 minutes. Stir the onion mixture while it cooks and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Crush the whole tomatoes by hand and add them (with their juices) to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until the mixture thickens — about 5 minutes.
Add the saffron-infused wine, then stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the warmed chicken broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces slightly — about 10 minutes.
Add the chorizo and chicken and continue to simmer until the liquid reduces further and the rice is al dente — about 15 minutes.
With about 8 minutes of cooking time remaining, nestle the shrimp and lobster tails into the rice. Depending on the size of the shrimp you are using (we use jumbo shrimp), you may want to add the lobster tails first. Smaller shrimp will take less time to cook.
The seafood is done when it feels firm and turns opaque (and the tails will curl up a bit). Taste the rice and make sure that it is done to your liking. If necessary, cook a few more minutes until the rice is al dente. For truly authentic paella, when the rice is done, increase the heat to high for 30 to 60 seconds, then turn off the heat. This blast of high heat at the end creates a layer of toasted rice on the bottom of the pan, called socarrat. While essential to genuine Spanish paella, creating socarrat can be a bit tricky (don’t want to burn the rice!) and this homemade version of paella is just as good without it.
Garnish the paella with chopped parsley and a lemon wedge and serve in a low bowl. This is a great dish to cook on New Year’s Eve, if you’re planning to stay in for the evening and want to serve something that looks pretty on the plate, tastes decadent and special, but doesn’t require hours in the kitchen.
- 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 cup Spanish chorizo sausage, cut into thick half-moon slices
- 1 white or yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ bunch parsley, chopped (with a little reserved for garnish)
- 1 (15 oz.) can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand
- 1 ¾ cups short grain Valencia rice
- 5 cups chicken broth, warmed
- generous pinch of saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 2 lobster tails, halved
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- salt & pepper
- lemon wedges for garnish
- Combine the paprika, oregano and a generous dash each of Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper in a small bowl. Trim any visible fat from the chicken, cut each thigh into 2-4 pieces, then toss the chicken with the paprika spice mixture and allow the chicken to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- Combine the saffron and white wine in a small bowl and set aside to infuse.
- Heat the oil in a paella pan or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until browned on all sides — about 5-7 minutes. Remove the chorizo to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Add the chicken to the pan and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onion, garlic and parsley to the pan and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until the mixture thickens — about 5 minutes. Add the saffron-infused wine, then stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the warmed chicken broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces — about 10 minutes.
- Add the chicken and chorizo and continue to simmer until the rice is al dente — about 15 more minutes. With about 8 minutes of cook time remaining, add the shrimp and lobster. The seafood is done when it feels firm and turns opaque. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.