Paella de Valencia


Paella is thought to have originated as a laborers’ meal, cooked over an open fire and eaten right out of the pan in the fields surrounding Valencia Spain.  Having spent a semester of college in Valencia, I witnessed first hand the huge amount of pride the people of Valencia take in their city’s signature dish.  You can’t walk down the streets of town, during a festival, without seeing enormous paella pans simmering on an open flame with several people attending to each pot as they serve heaping portions to party goers.

Although the city of Valencia sits right along the coast of the Mediterranean, seafood was not part of the original dish.  In fact, although most of us think of paella as a delicious mix of sausage, chicken & shellfish, it is actually not traditional for seafood and meat to be mixed in the same paella!  However, the truth is you really can’t go wrong.  With countless paella variations to choose from, it is easy to please the seafood lover, meat eater and vegetarian.

This recipe is a twist on the traditional paella I learned to make during my stay in Valencia.  Add or omit veggies, fish or meat to fit those with allergies or finicky taste buds!

Paella Recipe

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1-1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chop
  • 1 small onion, finely chop
  • 4 chicken legs & 1 breast, cut into pieces
  • 20 fresh clams (in shells)- (you can also substitute with mussels or use both!)
  • 1 pound of peeled fresh shrimp
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 pound of flat green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (or a bag of frozen peas)
  • 1 can of artichoke heart- cut in half
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 8-10 cups water, or fill up the paella pan to the height of the handles 2 times
  • 4-5 cups ( 1 1/4 pound) white short grain rice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pinch saffron, for coloring
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary, as garnish
  • Special equipment: paella pan or large shallow pan

Directions

Generously cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil and heat. Add the strips of pepper and fry until they start to soften. Remove and reserve for garnish. Fry the chicken until golden brown, adding more oil, as needed. Add the paprika half way through to add color to meat. Push the meat out to the edges of the pan.  Add the onion and brown.  Add the beans, garlic, artichokes and tomatoes in the center, mixing them well. Add 1/2 the water making sure to cover the pan until it is 1/2 full. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Add the shrimp & clams and cook for 5-10 minutes. *Make sure the all clam shell open (if not discard closed clams).

Add the rice, distributing it evenly over the pan and fry for a few minutes, moving it around in the pan. Add the rest of the water and cook for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add a pinch of saffron for color. Once this is done the paella should not be stirred anymore.

For the last 1 to 2 minutes increase the heat to medium-high, until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating what Valencians call the “socarrat”.  If the rice starts to burn remove the pan from the heat immediately.

Garnish the paella with the strips of red pepper and the sprigs of rosemary. Cover the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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