“Valencia took rice and with it created one of the best dishes of word cookery. Imagine – with rice! The white grain on which the impoverished of the world depend for sustenance. It is impossible to take culinary farther. Paella is not just another dish among the many that for the glorious Spanish cuisine: it is a gastronomic miracle.” -Luis Antonio de Vega, Spanish food writer.
Although the Romans taught the Spaniards how to grow rice a thousand years ago and the Moors improved irrigation techniques after that, it wasn’t until several hundred years later in a perfect storm between abundant rice crops and unfettered access to the fruits of the Mediterranean that the Valencians created the greatest gift of them all, paella.
This recipe is a heavy-handed mash-up of the fearless Catalan and American desire to combine contrary ingredients (pork and chicken with seafood) fused with the traditional paella techniques. The resulting dish is so special that guests will be describing the transformative experience in a poetic prose they didn’t know was in them.
Paella Mixta (Spanish Rice Pilaf with Mixed Meats and Seafood)
- Mini-processor or mortar and pestle
- Extra large pan
- 2 tbsp Parsley, minced Pars
- 6 cloves Garlic, minced
- ¼ tsp Saffron threads, crumbled
- 1 tbsp Pine nuts
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 6 Boneless chicken thighs, cut into ¾-inch cubes
- ½ lb Boneless pork loin, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ lb Monkfish, cut into 1-inch cubes, optional (Sub: grouper or swordfish).
- ½ lb Bay scallops
- ½ lb Chorizo or linguica, cut into ¼-inch coins (Hot Italian sausage can be used).
- 16 Extra-large shrimp, tails on, fresh or frozen
- 2 cups Clam juice, bottled
- 4 cups Chicken broth
- 1 large Yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large Red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 medium Tomato, chopped
- 24 oz Short-grain rice (Spanish Bomba, Arborio, Japanese)
- ½ cup Frozen baby peas or lima beans
- 1 Lemon, cut into wedges
- 2 tsp Paprika, preferably Spanish smoked
- 1 lb Mussels, cleaned
- In a mini processor or mortar, make a paste of the garlic, saffron, parsley, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Put chicken in a ziplock bag with 1 tsp salt. Put pork cubes, fish, and scallops in another bag with 1 tsp salt. Place both bags in refrigerator. Put shrimp in a colander and sprinkle with salt.
- Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Pour broths into a pot and keep warm.
- Add 6 tbsp olive oil to a paella pan or an extra large casserole. Briefly sauté the shrimp, about 1 minute per side. Remove to a bowl. Add chicken to the same pan and brown for minutes total. Remove to the bowl with shrimp. Add pork, fish, and scallops and cook, stirring, 2 minutes more.
- Add 2 tbsp oil and saute sausage for 5 minutes. Then onions and peppers to the pan and cook until softened. Stir in tomato for 2 more minutes, then add the paprika and rice, coating it with the pan mixture. Pour in broth and bring to a boil. Add the garlic-saffron paste and a little salt. Boil for 3 minutes more. Add all the meats and fish and continue to cook until rice is no longer soupy but visible liquid still remains, about 2 minutes.s.
- Scatter peas, pine nuts, and mussels over the top and place pan in oven for 15 minutes uncovered. Remove to the stovetop, cover with a dish towel or foil, and let it sit untouched for 10 minutes. Discard any unopened mussels. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with spicy garlic sauce on the side,
Tips for Superior Paellas
- Have all ingredients cleaned, chopped, measured, and ready to go in advance.
- If using clams or mussels, clean well in advance and leave in a bowl of water with a tbsp of bread crumbs in the refrigerator until ready to use. Rinse well before using.
- About 10 minutes before using, sprinkle seafood with a little salt to bring back the briny taste of the sea.
- Short grain rice is essential for a great paella. It will retain flavors and not burst during cooking like long grain or converted rice will. Spanish rice like Bomba from Valencia is perfect. Other short grain rices from Spain and Arborio rice from Italy are excellent too.
- The success of a paella is directly related to the depth of flavor of its broth. Chicken bone broths, clam juice, and vegetable broths are acceptable. Keep the broth warm but don't boil prior to use.
- Finishing properly will ensure perfection (or, if not careful, mediocrity). After pouring the broth into the coasted rice, bring to a boil for 5 minutes until the liquid gets "soupy" but enough remains to cook the rice in the oven. Never cook the paella in the oven until the rice is completely done. Take it out when time is up and leave it on the stovetop, untouched and covered, for another 10 minutes to finish cooking. Garnish with lemon wedge and serve in pan it was cooked in.
- Be sure not to overcook rice in the oven and to let it sit 5-10 minutes covered so rice can fully cook.
- Squid is a great substitute for either the fish, scallops, or both.
- Saffron can be omitted but even a tiny amount of crushed strands adds a distinct perfume and flavor.