Published May 1, 2005.
Paella can be a big hit at restaurants but an unwieldy production at home. Could we re-create this Spanish classic in two hours without using any fancy equipment?
Paella, originally a non-fussy dish prepared by agricultural workers as a means of cooking large quantities of rice, has become a big production recipe with a commanding list of ingredients and many complicated steps.
We wanted to simplify this Spanish classic to allow us to prepare it in two hours without using any fancy equipment or unconventional ingredients.
The key to our paella was finding equipment and ingredients that stayed true to the dish’s heritage. First, we substituted a Dutch oven for a single-purpose paella pan. Then we pared down our ingredients, dismissing lobster (too much work), diced pork (sausage would be enough), fish (flakes too easily), rabbit and snails (too unconventional). We were left with chorizo, chicken (boneless skinless thighs), shrimp, and mussels (favored over scallops, clams, and calamari). We next simplified our sofrito -- the trio of onions, garlic, and tomatoes that provides an aromatic base for Spanish rice dishes -- by mincing a can of drained diced tomatoes rather than seeding and grating a fresh tomato. When we focused on the rice, we found we preferred short-grain varieties. Valencia was our favorite, with Italian Arborio a close second. While the shrimp marinated in an olive oil/garlic mixture, we sautéed some peppers in a Dutch oven and then browned the chicken and chorizo. Next, we made the soffrito, sautéed the rice, and then added back the chicken and chorizo along with chicken broth, white wine, saffron, and a bay leaf. The covered pot was cooked in the oven just until the rice had absorbed almost all the liquid when we added the mussels, shrimp, peas, and sautéed peppers to finish cooking.list of recipes