Saturday, February 12, 2011

Paella Recipe

Paella is one of those dishes I have seen and thought I could never make. I always felt that it was totally complicated and that to make it would require so much culinary expertise that I couldn't handle it. So, I never made it. It is also one of those dishes that has so much seafood in it that I knew I wouldn't like it. But the other day I received an Ingrid Hoffman T-fal Paella Pan to review on my other blog, so I decided to take the plunge.

Like I said, I don't really like seafood. I don't eat fish. I will eat tuna in a can with oil and sometimes salmon if masked with a nice dill sauce but fish is something I do not like. I also do not like mussels, clams, oysters or scallops. I will eat shrimp, crab or lobster though. To me, paella was all about the seafood.

So I got this pan and I needed to review it. I could have made something else but as I perused recipes online, I realized that paella is what you make it. I am sure there is a true paella recipe but I looked at over 15 recipes and all were different. I read them and printed out four that I felt I could work with. The first was a recipe from Ingrid Hoffman. The rest were from Paula Deen, Guy Fieri and one from Jaime Oliver.

Because this is random willy-nilly cooking, I didn't follow just one recipe but took a little of one and a little of the other and put it all together. Jaime's recipe was way over my head. He used like a zillion ingredients but I got the idea to use white wine as well as chicken broth from him. From Guy's recipe, I took his advice to use arborio rice vs. regular long grain rice. I think I could have used long grain but the arborio rice just sucks up so much flavor. Paula gave me the idea to use chicken and other things if I wanted. But mainly, I followed Ingrid's recipe because it was true enough but, yet, easy enough for me to actually do it.

Her recipe was for shrimp and scallop paella but it worked out for me. So this is how I made my paella. I started out with one whole chopped onion, 6 chopped garlic cloves and one red and yellow pepper julienned. I was supposed to use a green pepper but my grocery store didn't have any. Geez. I began with 3 tablesppons of olive oil and then added the onions, garlic and peppers and sauteed them. I then added some chorizo.

I was supposed to use Spanish chorizo. Well, good luck trying to find freaking Spanish chorizo here in old Sylva, NC. I couldn't even get a green pepper for pete's sake. I probably should have checked at WalMart but didn't so I tried the next best thing: Mexican Chorizo. I took it out of the casing and added it to the pan. Then I took some chicken thighs I cut into cubes and added them to the an as well. I also added salt, pepper, Spanish paprika and saffron.

Let's talk about saffron. Super duper expensive but you need it. Luckily, I have a truckload in my spice cabinet since I bought some in Costa Rica. Next, I added some andouille sausage. I figured that the Mexican chorizo with the andouille sausage would sort of make up for the fact I had no Spanish chorizo.

After mixing all the ingredients, I added the rice along with a can of drained whole tomatoes. I made sure to drain the tomatoes but kept the liquid and added as needed when I added the other liquid. I cooked the mixture for about 5 minutes. On another burner, I had some broth and white wine boiling. I started adding the broth and wine mixture slowly to the paella pan.

True Story: I have never made paella but I have eaten it before. A few years ago, okay more than 15 years ago, I was in Costa Rica. One of my aunts invited me and my mom over for lunch. Now like I said, I don't eat fish or other seafood and, unfortunately, my aunt decided to make us paella.

My mami forgot to tell her I don't eat seafood. Anyway, we arrive at my aunt's house and a bunch of the family is there and it is big deal. To make a dish like this in Costa Rica is pricey! Seafood is pretty expensive and I knew she went through a lot of trouble making it so I had to keep my mouth shut. I also remember my mom taking me aside and warning me I needed to eat her food and not say one thing.

Although I am sure my mom sometimes thinks I am a heathen, potty mouth girl (and I am), I can behave like a decent human being sometimes. The one thing I always appreciated about my mami is that she taught us manners. There are certain things you do and don't when someone invites you to his/her house for dinner. I never ever arrive at without a gift. It doesn't matter if it's bread, wine or flowers, you bring something as a thank you. And unless you are deathly allergic to something. You eat what you are served and declare it is freaking delicious, period. So even though I wanted to run out of the house before eating that meal, I knew that I had to put my big girl panties on and suck it up.

So I smiled and when the dish came out, I said how wonderful it looked. I also put a ton of salad on my plate. I figured I would fill up on other stuff since I didn't want to eat much of the paella. When it came to serving up my portion, I dug through the dish and tried to avoid all seafood and pile on the rice. Of course, I was foiled when my uncle made sure I got some seafood. I was picking at my food all the while getting the hairy eyeball from my mom. I knew I had no choice but to eat.

I did what you do when you have manners and are in a situation like this: you swallow. I chopped the seafood up into tiny pieces and then swallowed it. In between bites, I said oh how delicious, wonderful etc. I am such a good girl! I ate everything on my plate then declared I was full. The dish wasn't horrible but it was not a good experience. It also turned me off to ever trying to make paella myself.

Okay back to the recipe. Making the paella was sort of like making a risotto but easier. I didn't have to stand there and stir. I would add the liquid and then let it soak in and add more liquid and stir. Once all the liquid was added, the recipe called to put some aluminum foil over the pan and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

Again, I just played it by ear. I would test the rice to make sure it was getting cooked. After 20 minutes, I added the shrimp and peas and let it cook about 10 minutes more.

Let me tell you that my paella was one of the most beautiful dishes I have ever created. It was a sight to behold. But best of all, it was delicious. I was so surprised as how damn good it was. I rock!

Paella is one of those dishes that intimidated me but not anymore. I just thought that it was going to be really hard to make myself. I can't tell you that having the paella pan really, really helped. It was the perfect thing to make a great paella. I know I will be making this again and again.

Also, it is a recipe that you can make any which way as long as you have the basic technique down. If I ever find Spanish chorizo here in Western North Carolina, I will try that. You can make a veggie paella as well. It is that versatile.

I also realized that this would be a perfect dish for entertaining! It is impressive enough for a dinner party and easy enough to make for a party party. It feeds a lot of people and depending on the ingredients, you can make it at a reasonable price. It also feeds tons of people.

Buen Provecho!


  1. Pobrecita, I can only imagine your experience at your tia's house, she was trying to impress you by serving seafood. Paella has always seemed so intimidating but if you can make it willy-nilly then we can make it at my house. I'll be adding chorizo to our shopping list..

  2. Wow that picture with the shrimp and peas added should be on a cover of a food magazine. Beautiful. I bet your hubby loved it!

  3. My husband saw your paella picture and he wants me to cook it, I will try soon your recipe! Saludos!

  4. oh man!!! this post is off the hook. hahah. ok, im trying this. im obsessed with paella but never even thought of making it.

  5. Seriously, seriously, seriously - dangerously delicious! YUM! I've never attempted to make paella myself but with this recipe I think I can!

  6. It looks great!!! Sounds yummy too.

  7. It must be the Spanish custom cause I was raised with the same way: Never go to someone's home without a gift, eat their food even if you don't like and always say its delish. Oh and don't forget the one where you have to eat everything off the plate LOL Ay!

    But seriously I loved your version of Paella. Looks simple, quick and delish. Plus it doesn't have alot of seafood so my boys would actually eat it.

    Another successful random willy nilly style dish ;)