Paella is a classic Spanish dish that is defined as a rice stew A dish made of saffron flavored rice with chicken, shellfish, and a variety of other ingredients cooked together to create a communal style meal, meaning that everyone finds a place around the pan to enjoy.
Americans tend to lean into the belief that paella is served on special ocassions or as a fancy dish in a Spanish restuarant. The reality is Spanish families prepare paella often for their families, in a simple good old-fashioned way….. At home, and on their stove top. Sometimes with a paella pan, or a large skillet.
Two things struck me about this classic Spanish dish. First, it is not a complicated dish and almost any ingredient can be used in paella. Second, this is a dish that is accessible to all cooks. There are as many ways to prepare paella as there is a Sunday Sauce, the possibilities are endless.
On a blistering hot afternoon in Madrid I sat in Adoración’s kitchen to watch and learn how a Spanish family prepares Paella. Like most recipes in Spanish families they are handed down from mother to daughter, and remain timeless. In my elementary Spanish I wrote down feversihly the ingredients, snapped photos and wrote her directions. I give my best effort and my heart to provide you with her recipe.
To begin, a sofrito is prepared which commonly includes garlic, onion, paprika (peppers) and tomatoes cooked in olive oil. This creates the flavor foundation in many Spanish dishes. Interesting, onion is commonly used in Spain but in this dish is purposefully left out.
Meats are cooked individually and then removed. The chicken and fish has been removed and calamari has been added.
When all the meats have been cooked the ingredients are returned to the pan and water or broth is added. The rice will be added and the paella will be brought to a hard boil for several minutes and it will then be returned to a simmer.
Adoración reminded me of the importance to taste start to finish and adjust your seasoning.
The result is a beautiful classic, family style paella
Adoración’s Spanish Paella
Equipment Needed: A round 10-12″ skillet or small paella pan
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bell peppers (chopped into large pieces)
1lb. white fish, cut into chunks (note: Monkfish was the fish of choice as it is an appreciated fish enjoyed often in Spain)
1-1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2-ounces red pimento
8-ounces small tender early green peas
8-ounces canned white albacore chunk tuna, drained
8-ounces artichokes, drained, chopped
Salt to Taste
Spanish Saffron a/k/a Spanish Red Gold
1 packet Sazón (Means “Seasoning” in Spanish. The seasoning adds flavor and also the subtle orange hue to the rice). This seasoning packet is easily found in the ethnic section of your grocery store.
1lb. fresh calamari
4 cups short grain rice
8 cups water or broth (seafood or chicken)
*Pinch of sugar to reduce the acid of the tomatoes
1. Heat olive oil and add bell peppers and cook until to translucent (about 3-4 minutes) Remove.
2. Add chicken breasts to hot oil, and season with salt. Cook (about 3-4 minutes) browning the chicken breasts is not necessary. Remove from heat.
3. Add tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, peppers, garlic, salt to taste and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
4. Add calamari, chicken, and fish to tomato and garlic mixture. Simmer on low heat for 5-6 minutes.
5. Add water, tuna, and peas. Simmer to a boil. Add saffron and Sazón.
6. Add rice, bring to a hard boil (approximately 10 minutes) turn down temperature to a simmer for 5 minutes, and rest for another 10 minutes. Add artichokes, dress wth the pimento peppers and serve.
Note: I have been asked many times how an opportunity like this journey to Spain came to be a reality. Over the years, our family has hosted students from Europe (Germany, Netherlands and Spain). These children spend a high school year with our family and become very much part of our family. This past year, we hosted a wonderful child from Spain. This summer we traveled to Spain to meet his family, it was truly an absolutely amazing experience.