“Paella is all about simplicity: it is not a dumping ground of ingredients”. The Gourmet Traveller
Presenting Chicken Paella dish as taught to me by a Spanish chef in Barcelona. It was fabulous to not only learn how to make a true paella but to also discover that it is far more simple to make than l previously thought. I’m going to share with you the tips to help you make a great paella, and prove that it’s a dish that can be an every day meal.
For this particular Chicken Paella dish, the rice is infused with red wine, lemon and rosemary to create a deep, caramelised flavour. Tender pieces of chicken seasoned with smoked paprika are placed on top of the rice and cooked until a gorgeous crust forms.
It’s all About the Rice.
Paella is a rice based dish, and it is the quality of the rice that must shine. A genuine paella calls for short grain rice which holds its shape while forming a crust. Bomba rice is most sought after for paella because of its absorption qualities; but it can be hard to find. Arborio rice is a great substitute and is the one l use.
What about the Pan?
Paella is both the name of the dish and the pan it is cooked in. Highly recognisable, the paella pan is wide and shallow to ensure that the rice is cooked in a thin layer. I have a 32 cm / 12.5″ enamel based pan ($A35), although l have been eyeing off stainless steel and carbon steel pans.
If you don’t wish to make that outlay, use any shallow, broad-based pan.
To Stir or not to Stir
You’ll know that you have achieved a great paella when the surface is pitted with tiny holes and the base and sides have developed a caramelised crust.
The key to this is not stir continuously as you would with risotto.
It is in the initial phases that you will need to stir the rice to ensure even heat distribution. After that, you leave it be. All is explained in my instructions.
Top Tips for Chicken Paella From A Spanish Chef
A great cooking experience should definitely be fun and hands-on, but the best ones (like my class at the Paella Club in Barcelona) are those that give you insights that many recipes don’t provide.
- Caramelise the onions and garlic (sofrito). Cooking the onions and garlic long and slow will give you a caramelised flavour; so it’s definitely worth taking your time during this step.
- Thin layer – deep flavour. The rice should be cooked in a thin layer and be no thicker than the width of your little finger. It’s the thin layer of rice that creates the caramelised socarrat – the crust on the sides and bottom of the pan. Take a look at the gorgeous caramelisation.
- Use stock / broth – not water. It is essential to have a good stock, so if you don’t want to make your own from scratch, please buy a good one. Water just won’t do!
- NEVER add chorizo sausage. There are plenty of paella recipes that do add chorizo, but if you want to keep it traditional, leave it out. The reasoning behind this, l’m told, is that the chorizo can overpower all the other flavours.
- Pan sizes. It’s important to maintain that thin layer of rice, so if you want to make lots of paella you do so by getting a bigger pan rather than adding lots of rice to a smaller pan.
- Turn up the heat. You will need to adjust the heat a few times, so don’t be afraid to crank it up when necessary.
Sure, there are a few things to look out for when making paella, but that’s what makes paella more than just another rice dish. Ole! 💃🏻
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Serves: 2 – 3
- 1 tsp smoked paprika plus 1/2 tsp extra
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 400 g / 14 oz small chicken pieces (4 drummettes & 4 wingettes)
- 3 tbsp olive oil divided
- 3 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 thin slice of lemon skin (note 1)
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp garlic, roughly chopped
- 80 g / 3 oz brown mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup red wine (note 2)
- 1/2 cup passata / tomato puree plus 1 tbsp water (note 3)
- 1/2 tsp ground saffron or a good pinch of saffron threads (note 4).
- 200 g / 7 oz bomba or arborio rice (note 5)
- 350 ml / 12 fl oz beef broth / stock
- Preheat oven to 200 C / 390 F
- Pat dry the chicken with paper towel. Sprinkle with paprika and salt. Refrigerate.
- Add 2 tbsp olive oil to pan over moderate low heat. Add the lemon skin and 1 sprig of rosemary. Fry until golden brown (3 – 4 mins). Remove from pan.
- Turn heat up to moderate high. Sear chicken until partially cooked (1 min per side). Remove from pan. Set aside.
- Turn heat down to low. Add the chopped onion and garlic to pan. Saute until onion has turned golden and edges start to get crispy (8 mins).
- Push onion mixture to edges of pan. Turn heat up to moderate – low and add the mushrooms. If necessary, add a little more oil (1/2 tbsp). Saute until golden (2 mins).
- Turn heat up to moderate. Mix onion and mushrooms together. Pour in red wine. Cook until wine has evaporated (3 – 5 mins).
- Add tomato puree and water to pan. Stir (30 secs).
- Push aside mixture to form a small hole in centre of pan. Add 2 tsp olive oil. Add the paprika and ground saffron. Mix together for 20 seconds, then combine with onion & mushrooms.
- Add the rice and mix for 2 minutes, making sure all rice is coated.
- Turn heat up to medium high. Add beef broth. Cook for 5 mins, stirring 2 – 3 times (note 6).
- Cook paella, without stirring for a further 2 mins. Turn off stove.
- Place chicken on top. Do not push chicken into the rice.
- Place paella pan on centre rack of oven and cook for 15 mins.
- Turn the oven grill / broiler on high and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven and decorate with sprigs of rosemary.
- If you’d like to enjoy paella the way it was intended, set it in the middle of the table with a spoon for each diner.
- My lemon skin measure 4 cm / 1.5″ x 3 cm / 1″.
- I have made paella using 1/2 or 3/4 cup of red wine. Using 3/4 cup of red wine will give you a very intense flavour. I suggest starting with 1/2 cup for your first time.
- Store bought tomato puree / passata as opposed to fresh homemade tomato puree can be quite thick. Thin it down by adding 1 tbsp of water.
- If using saffron threads, stir them in with the stock / broth.
- Bomba rice, the preferred rice for paella, can be difficult to get. Arborio is a good alternative.
- Stir the rice by pushing the mixture from the edge of the pan to the centre where the heat is more concentrated.