Paella is one of our most special meals. I instantly fell in love with this traditional Spanish dish while studying in Madrid several years ago. Inspired by an interest in Spanish cooking (fueled by both chef José Andrés and this show), we decided to give our own a try a few years ago, and were surprised to meet with great success! Since then, we’ve made a point to have a paella on special occasions, especially in the summer. I get a little nostalgic thinking about the times I’ve shared them with friends and family!
Though we’ve mainly reserved paella for special occasions, we’ve recently realized the concept itself is actually very simple. Throw some veggies in a pan, add some rice and broth, and cook quickly until crispy and delicious! It looks rather fancy and does require a few special ingredients. But if you have the means and interest, it’s totally worth it – and we’ve developed a method that is not overly labor intensive. (We actually made one in about 40 minutes the other night!)
For this paella, we sprang for a bit of seafood; we occasionally treat ourselves on special occasions, and a dinner with new blogger friends seemed like a good excuse. (If you can, try to buy quality seafood from a vendor that you trust.) You also can skip the seafood altogether, or substitute with some chickpeas or other legume.
Paella is all about community and enjoying eating together. The method we’ve described here uses a grill; we’ve also tried over the open fire with good results (the concept is the same; just cook until the broth has evaporated). It’s a wonderful option for a summer evening around the grill!
And the ingredient possibilities are endless – try any veggies that are in season, or any type of seafood, chicken, or sausage (just make sure to sauté the meat a bit longer than the time listed for the seafood below). We also loved the shiitake mushrooms we included in this paella – they soaked up the flavor perfectly!
If you’re looking for a special way to celebrate summer with loved ones, give paella a try! (We’re also working to develop an even simpler stovetop paella recipe for weeknight cooking, which we may try when more of our garden veggies are in season.) Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice – it’s actually made from the stamens of the crocus flower! The cost might prohibit you from trying it, so feel free to omit if necessary. However, it’s a great gift idea (ours is courtesy of a brilliant idea of Alex’s mom). Pimentón is key to the recipe; you can find it at most grocery stores.
- 15-inch paella pan or any large, shallow, flameproof pan (stainless steel or aluminum preferable)
- 12 mussels or clams
- 12 high-quality deveined shrimp (or substitute cooked chickpeas for a vegetarian version)
- 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- 1 zucchini
- ½ head cauliflower or any vegetables of your choice
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup tomato puree
- 5½ cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups Arborio (short grain) rice
- 1 pinch saffron
- 2 tablespoons pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Heat a grill to medium high heat.
- Prepare the ingredients: Scrub the mussels or clams; place them in a bowl with the shrimp. Slice the zucchini and mushrooms; chop the cauliflower into bite sized pieces. Add the vegetables to a bowl. Mince 4 cloves garlic, then add them to a small bowl with 3 tablespoons olive oil. In a medium bowl, place ½ cup tomato puree and 5½ cups broth; mix to combine. In a another bowl, add 2 cups Arborio rice, 1 pinch saffron, 2 tablespoons pimentón, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a good amount of fresh ground pepper.
- Assemble the paella: Bring the bowls of ingredients and the paella pan to the grill. Prior to cooking, add about 15 briquettes to the fire to keep the temperature up. Place the pan on the grill and add the olive oil and garlic; cook for about 30 seconds. Add the vegetables; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the seafood; cook for about 2 minutes, flipping the shrimp once. Pour in the rice and spices so that they cover the pan. Add the broth and puree mixture and stir to combine.
- Let the paella cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Cook uncovered on a charcoal grill or with the cover down on a gas grill. Make sure not to stir, since this when the magic happens (the crust on the bottom is the most important part of a traditional paella). Also be careful that is does not burn; it cooks fairly quickly.
- After removing from the heat, let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to cool.