Paella with artichokes, chicken, chorizo & shrimp
Paella cooking class for my book club
I recently held a cooking class for my book club on how to make paella. The book we discussed is Cooked, A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan, so I thought it would be fun if we all cooked together and made a dish that many people consider to be restaurant-food only.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about the process of making paella and have broken it down into manageable steps. Check out the post I wrote last year that will help you understand:
- The ingredients that go into making paella.
- The equipment you will need to make paella and what you can substitute if you don't have a paella pan.
- How to determine the amount of each paella ingredient you need based on the number of people you are serving.
- A step-by-step process for making paella without a recipe.
Paella is a fabulous dish that is perfect for entertaining. Paella is a one-dish meal that can largely be prepared in advance and always wows people when you pull it out of the oven.
Isn't paella expensive to make?
This is a big misconception. Paella does not have to be expensive. In fact, paella originated as a peasant dish, where farm workers added a few ingredients, typically beans and snails, to rice. If they were lucky, they added some some rabbit or chicken. The mixed paellas with seafood, poultry and chorizo really evolved for tourists. There is no doubt these fully-loaded paellas are delicious, but simple paellas are also great.
Your paella can be made inexpensively by using seasonal ingredients. Traditional paellas stick with one main theme - seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, poultry or rabbit so that one ingredient is truly highlighted.
The one ingredient you can't cheat on is the rice. Paella uses a particular rice that absorbs a tremendous amount of liquid, and simply will not work if you substitute regular rice. The Spanish Bomba or Callasparra rice used in paella is a bit expensive, but a little goes along way, as you only need 1/3 cup per person. The one rice you can substitute in a pinch is Italian arborio rice, as it also absorbs a large volume of liquid.
What about saffron?
Saffron is indeed very expensive, but not required for paella. Saffron is wonderful, but in my opinion, the biggest benefits of using saffron in paella are the beautiful color it turns the rice and the aroma that is created when the saffron is heated. The truth is that much of the paella served in restaurants does not have saffron in it because it is too costly. Turmeric and other low-cost coloring agents are used to create the yellow color. If saffron is outside your budget, just skip it. If you do use saffron in your paella, do not overdo it. Too much saffron is worse than no saffron at all!
Pimenton de la vera
While saffron is optional, Pimenton de la Vera, or smoked Spanish paprika, is not. This spice gives your paella a wonderful outdoor smoked flavor even if you are cooking it in your kitchen. Plus, once you discover this amazing spice you will put it on everything from eggs to potatoes to chicken. There are two kinds of Pimenton de la Vera, sweet (dulce) and hot (picante.) You can use either one. I personally like to use a bit of both in my paellas.
The one new thing I added to this paella was fresh artichokes and it was a fabulous addition. See my post on how to trim and steam artichokes. I boosted the flavor of the artichokes by briefly sauteing them in the fat rendered from the chicken and the chorizo. Wow!
These peppers are smoky, sweet and delicious, but in my mind also optional in your paella. In a pinch you can substitute regular roasted red peppers or skip them altogether if you want. Piquillos are used to garnish the paella. If you buy a jar for your paella, use the remainder of the jar in sandwiches or a tapas platter with a little Spanish cheese. Yum!
Special equipment and ingredients for this paella
- A 17 - 18" paella pan. I like stainless steel paella pans because they don't require any maintenance. Carbon steel paella pans are traditionally used, and are about half the price of stainless steel, but require seasoning and special care to prevent them from rusting. You can also make paella in a large skillet in a pinch.
- Bomba or Callasparra rice
- Pimenton de la Vera, dulce or picante
- Saffron (optional)
- Piquillo peppers (optional)
- Fresh cooking chorizo sausage (not dried chorizo)
Preparing the ingredients
Paella can be prepared largely in advance, and assembled 30 minutes before you are ready to serve it. For this recipe you can do the following steps a day in advance:
- Steam and prepare the artichokes
- Brown the chicken and chorizo
- Saute the artichokes in the chicken and chorizo fat
- Prepare the sofrito
When your guests arrive all you have to do is: 1) heat up your sofrito with a little saffron and Pimenton de la Vera, 2) add your rice, chicken broth and toppings on the stove, and 3) finish for 10 minutes in the oven.
Paella class was a big success
If you have been following my website for a while, you know that my main goal for Something New For Dinner is to get people to cook great food and share it with each other. My book club had a great time cooking together and I think everyone was truly surprised at how easy it is to make paella. (True, the sangria may have helped boost the conviviality of the group.) One good friend, who is a bit of a reluctant cook, made a big paella for her family a few days later. Mission accomplished!
- Classic sangria
- Tropical with passion fruit sangria
- Tangerine and strawberry sangria
- Orange flan
- Pumpkin flan
Feature photographs by Nancy Greene
What are your favorite paella ingredients?
Paella with artichokes, chicken, chorizo & shrimp
Yield 6 -8 servings
Paella is a wonderful entertaining dish. Paella is over-the-top delicious, can be made in advance and always wows your guests when you pull it out of the oven.
- Olive oil, use as needed
- 2 fresh artichokes, trimmed
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 pound fresh chorizo sausage, cut into 2" pieces
- 1 1/2 onions, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 red bell peppers, chopped
- 1 1/2 t pimenton de la vera, divided
- 6 plum tomatoes
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 pinch of saffron, about 25 - 30 threads (optional)
- 5-6 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups bomba or callasparra rice
- 6 large unpeeled shrimp
- 12 1/4" strips of jarred piquillo peppers (optional)
- 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 1-2 lemons, sliced
- Note: the first 6 steps can be prepared a day in advance. Put the trimmed artichokes leaves-side up in a steaming basket in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Put a few inches of water in the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and steam, covered, for about 30 minutes. The artichokes are done when the leaves pull away from the heart with a gentle tug, but the leaves are still slightly underdone. Remove the artichokes from the pan and let cool. When they are cool enough to handle, slice the artichokes in quarters from stem to stern and remove the artichoke fur. Set aside.
- Liberally season the chicken with salt and pepper. Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven and brown the chicken on both sides over medium high heat. Remove the chicken and set aside. Cover and refrigerate if you are not going to finish the paella until later.
- In the fat rendered from the chicken, brown your chorizo in the same pan, turning so you get a good brown on all sides of the sausage. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside, or refrigerate if you are not going to finish the paella until later.
- To give your artichokes a flavor boost, quickly saute them in the remaining chicken and chorizo fat. Saute on both sides for a couple minutes each. Remove from the pan and set aside or refrigerate if you are not going to finish the paella until later.
- The next step is making the sofrito. Start by cutting the tomatoes in half and use your fingers to scoop out the seeds. Grate each tomato half with a box grater. Place the cut side of the tomato against the grater and rub until all the tomato meat is removed and only the skin remains. Discard the skins. Set aside the tomato pulp.
- Cook the sofrito in the same pan using the fat rendered from the chicken and the chorizo, adding olive oil as needed. Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the red peppers and saute another 5 or so minutes. Sprinkle in 3/4 t Pimenton de la Vera and cook another minute or so. Add tomatoes and a big pinch of salt and stir to combine. Add a splash of olive oil and cook the tomatoes about 15 minutes. The finished sofrito should be squishy and jam-like, without a lot of fluids. Cover and refrigerate if you are going to assemble the paella later.
- To assemble the paella, start by heating your oven to 400 degrees. Put the saffron in a small bowl and add about 3 T of very hot water, and set aside for 10-15 minutes. In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil and then reduce the heat to low.
- Heat your paella pan over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons or so of olive oil and heat up your sofrito. Add the saffron, the water the saffron is soaking in, and the remaining 3/4 t of Pimenton de la Vera. Stir and cook a few seconds. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat each grain with the sofrito. This is the only time you stir the rice! Cook a few minutes and spread the rice out evenly in the bottom of the paella pan to form a thin layer. The layer should be 1/2" to 3/4" thick.
- Add 5 - 6 cups of hot broth to the paella pan. The liquid should come up to the handle marks on the inside of the paella pan. Spread the chicken, sausage and artichokes on top of the rice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium/low and cook for 10 minutes. NO stirring! Arrange the shrimp and piquillo peppers on top of the paella. If the rice is looking a little dry add a bit more hot broth.
- Put the paella pan in the oven and bake an additional 10 minutes. If the paella is too liquid, cook for a few more minutes. If rice is too dry, add a splash or two of broth and cook for a minute or two more. Do not stir or even dip your spoon in the paella!
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.
THIS SERVES WELL WITH