I’ve been making Paella since Valentine’s Day in 2021. Since then, I’ve honed my skills and recipe. A bunch of friends have asked for the recipe, so here it is. This recipe is very me. I like to do a lot of fusion in my paella. I suggest starting standard and branching out. Paella is amazing because you can put anything in it and it’ll probably taste amazing.
My former roommate and friend Alan Powers used to make paella on the grill with a cast iron pan. It was sooo good! I started making it because of his influence. The first recipe I used was the NYT Cooking’s Paella Master Recipe. I also like this video one of my wife’s ex-coworkers sent me.
- Pan: Miranda got me a nice 17” Carbon Steel Paella Pan. It works wonderfully due to the quick heat transfer and wide basin. As a substitute, You could also use a smaller 12” standard saute pan. A cast iron pan will also work well, but will retain heat longer, so you’ll probably want to remove it from the heat a little sooner.
- Heating: You want to make sure you have even heat over the entirety of the pan when you’re cooking the rice. It’s important to get that good soccorat (charred bottom). I use a combination of 3 different standard gas stovetop burners and rotate my pan every few minutes to make sure the heat is as even as possible. Alan used to use the grill with the top open to get a nice wide heat surface.
- Scraper: Miranda also gifted me a Paella scraper, a metal spatula with a long handle and a thin edge for scraping the bottom of the pan to get that soccorat off the bottom. Not required, but really nice. Otherwise, just wait until the pan cools, the rice will be easier to pry free.
- Paella rice: I usually use Matiz Paella Rice, but any short-grain rice should work. I use about half a bag in my pan.
- Olive oil. I always cook with olive oil. I love the flavor. You could use something else, but why change it if it works?
- Sofrito: Classic Spanish combination of onion, peppers, and tomatoes
- Peppers usually implies a bell pepper. I always add at least one. But, I love to also add jalepeno peppers with seeds to my Paella. I like the kick it adds to the whole dish.
- For tomatoes, I learned about grating tomatoes. It’s not common in American cooking, but it’s quite easy. Just get a few vine tomatoes and then grate them against the large size cheese grater. It’s quite fast to prepare and gives you all the good parts of the tomatoes in a very liquidy form.
- In our house, Miranda is allergic to onions and garlic, so we go light on the onions here. I still put an onion (diced) in, but I don’t over-do it.
- You’ve heard about Saffron. And it’s quite a good addition to the Paella, but optional. Toast it quickly in some foil before cooking if you can. It’ll help bring out the flavors.
- But the real star of my paella is Smoked Paprika. Like… a lot of it. I add at least 2 teaspoons to my 17” pan.
- Stock (about 5-6 cups for my 17” pan cooking in dry Colorado; your milage may vary. Lower altitude cooking will require less liquid.)
- Usually most of my stock is chicken broth, but I have some langostine shells in my freezer for making seafood base, which can be nice to just add to chicken broth to give it some seafood flavor quickly.
- I also like to add a cup or so of red wine, usually a good one because I’m picky. I think this goes a long way toward making excellent Paella, but it’s hard to be sure.
As for meat, vegetarian proteins, seafood, and vegetables, you can’t really go wrong. Here are some combinations I’ve done:
- All meat: Bulk Spicy Italian Sausage + Chicken Thighs (Rabbit would be preferable, but hard to find) + Olives
- Surf+Turf with Veggies: Bulk Italian Sausage + Shredded Brussel Sprouts + Mussels and Shrimp + Olives
- Clean base + meat top: Chicken thighs + Sausage links
- All Seafood with a Twist: Clams + Shrimp + Kimchi + Olives
- Vegetarian: Broccoli Florets + Mushrooms + Olives
Regardless of what you choose, I usually add about 2lbs of meat+seafood plus one vegetable. I almost always use olives. They add such a great acid bite to what is mostly a savory dish.
- Preheat your stock on the side so it’s warm when you need it.
- Start by browning your meat and mushrooms in your paella pan in olive oil over medium high heat. Make sure to salt and pepper as necessary. I start with just one burner on so I have room on the pan to move things aside. Once browned, move the meat and/or mushrooms aside.
- Saute diced onions in olive oil and the meat oil. Once past translucence but before charring, add peppers in and stir. Once peppers are soft, add vegetables. Once vegetables have a light cooking to them (they don’t need to be fully cooked), move on.
- Now you’re ready to just add everything. Turn down the heat while you add all this. Add grated tomatoes, saffron, and smoked paprika. Stir together. Add rice. Stir around so the rice shines with some oil. Pour in stock. Give everything a nice stir so it’s even. Turn up the heat to medium high. If adding chicken or sausage links, set those on top of the rice mixture and push down to embed them in the rice.
- Don’t stir your pan ever again. You can rotate it gently to keep heat even, but that’s about it. Cooking times will vary by size and altitude. My paellas usually cook for ~35-45 minutes.
- About a quarter to halfway though cooking, you’ll see the stock start to dip below the height of the ingredients. At this point, add seafood to the top of the rice mixture, pushing down to embed it in there. I like to make a little design so it looks nice.
- Monitor the cooking. The paella is done when the bubbling of the stock has all but disappeared and the slight smell of burning rice is in the air. This takes a bit of practice.
- If you don’t get the proportions right (which is all but guaranteed in Colorado), you may have to cover your paella with tin foil to capture heat to cook the rice on the top. This will extend the cook time because the captured heat is also capturing moisture.
- Remove the Paella from the heat. Serve immediately, using a scraping tool to get the charred rice from the bottom into every dish.
- Garnish with lemon slices and a negroni.