I’ll tell ya…..the holidays were quite productive in our kitchen. From sweets to savories to old time classics and new Foodventures. What a whirlwind!
On one particular evening, we were able to check off another dish off my “must make” list—PAELLA! We turned to Cook’s Illustrated version of Paella since it didn’t require the traditional paella pan but used a heavy dutch oven instead. It was perfect because although I love the look of paella pans I don’t have the storage space to keep them.
We were all very happy with the end results of the dish. Especially because we achieved the coveted soccarat–the crunchy rice that forms at the bottom of the pan!
I did have two “uh-oh” moments that were completely my fault. First, we added much more seafood than the recipe called for. When it comes to seafood in my family—more is better. As a result of the extra seafood, we had so much excess liquid in the pot. We ended up having to spoon out some of the liquid because too much moisture equals no soccarat.
The second challenge we needed to problem solve was that I left the lid on during step 6. The lid trapped the steam into the pot and would have never allowed the lovely soccarat layer to form. Per my sister’s quick thinking, we took off the lid and returned the pot into the oven under the broiler setting. The paella was left under the broiler until it browned and then we switched it back to the stove (lid off!) to complete step 6. PHEW! Luckily it all worked! Lesson learned.
This Paella was just a Pot of Goodness. You’re going to want to make this one. For Reals. Like right now.
Just learn from my mistakes and read each step carefully
From Cooking at Home with America’s Test Kitchen 2006
This paella recipe calls for making it in a Dutch oven (the Dutch oven should be 11 to 12 inches in diameter with at least a 6-quart capacity). With minor modifications, it can also be made in a paella pan. Cured Spanish chorizo is the sausage of choice for paella, but fresh chorizo or Portuguese linguiça is an acceptable substitute.
Soccarat, a layer of crusty browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, is a traditional part of paella. In our paella, soccarat does not develop because most of the cooking is done in the oven. We have provided instructions to develop soccarat in step 5; if you prefer, skip this step and go directly from step 4 to step 6.—the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated
1 Pound Extra-Large Shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined
Salt and Ground Black Pepper
8 or 9 Medium Garlic Cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (2 generous tablespoons)
1 Pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs, each thigh trimmed of excess fat and halved crosswise
1 Red Bell Pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut pole to pole into 1/2-inch-wide strips
8 Ounces Spanish Chorizo, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 Medium Onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
One 14.5 Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes, drained, minced, and drained again
2 Cups Valencia or Arborio Rice
3 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
1/3 Cup Dry White Wine
1/2 Teaspoon Saffron Threads, crumbled
1 Dried Bay Leaf
1 Dozen Mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/2 Cup Frozen Peas, thawed
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley Leaves
1 Lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position; heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Toss the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic in a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set aside.
2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the pepper strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin begins to blister and turn spotty black, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the pepper to a small plate and set aside.
3. Add 1 teaspoon oil to the now-empty Dutch oven; heat the oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer; cook, without moving the pieces, until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown on the second side, about 3 minutes longer; transfer the chicken to a medium bowl. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chorizo to the pot; cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned and the fat begins to render, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to the bowl with the chicken and set aside.
4. Add enough oil to the fat in the Dutch oven to equal 2 tablespoons; heat over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes; stir in the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes; cook until the mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the grains are well coated with the tomato mixture, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return the chicken and chorizo to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven; cook until the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid, about 15 minutes.
5. Remove the paella from the oven (close the oven door to retain heat). Uncover the paella; scatter the shrimp over the rice, insert the mussels hinged-side down into the rice (so they stand upright), arrange the bell pepper strips in a pinwheel pattern, and scatter the peas over the top. Cover and return to the oven; cook until the shrimp are opaque and the mussels have opened, 10 to 12 minutes.
6. Optional: If soccarat (see headnote) is desired, set the Dutch oven, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating the pot 180 degrees after about 2 minutes for even browning.
7. Let the paella stand, covered, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened and the bay leaf, if it can be easily removed. Sprinkle the paella with the parsley and serve, passing the lemon wedges separately.