|About 3 hours
Paella is a Spanish rice dish that derives its name from the utensil used to prepare it, a paellera—a flat round pan with two handles. Paella roja is a classic version of mixed paella in Spain (not including the Valencian region). Paella aficionados refer to it as mixed because it combines meat from land animals with seafood. The recipe below is based on the one displayed on Spain-recipes.com but with more ingredients. It requires some time to prepare but it's well worth the effort.
Please read Paella cooking techniques before attempting this recipe.
- 38-centimeter (15-inch) paellera
- 7.6-liter (two-gallon) pot
- Rice skimmer
- Sharp chopping knife for meat and vegetables
- Large serving spoon
- Potato masher
- Clean, white towel large enough to cover the paellera
- Wide heating source such as:
- Stove large enough to accommodate the size of the paellera
- Gas burner designed specifically for paelleras
- Charcoal grill
- Low, forged steel tripod to support the paellera over a wood or charcoal fire
- Cinder blocks or heat-resistant bricks to support the paellera over a wood or charcoal fire
- 225 grams (½ pound) chicken wings
- 225 grams (½ pound) of any of the following: frozen seafood mix, fish heads, whole crabs, shrimp heads, smelts
- 1 medium onion
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3.8 liters (1 gallon) water
- 2 bay leaves
- Olive oil
- 1½–2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
- Salt to taste
- 340 grams (12 ounces) boneless chicken breast or tenderloins
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 225 grams (8 ounces) onion, diced
- 450 grams (1 pound) red bell pepper, diced
- 450 grams (1 pound) tomatoes, diced
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 225 grams (6 ounces) canned beans (e.g. chickpeas, butter beans, great northern beans, lima beans; optional), thoroughly rinsed and strained
- 720 milliliters (2½ cups) Valencian rice
- 1½ tablespoons food coloring for yellow rice (see notes)
- 340 grams (12 ounces) squid mantles, diced or cut into rings, shrimp
- 340 grams (12 ounces) scallops
- 24 live mussels, cleaned with beards removed
- Fill a pan with about 1 inch of water. Bring to a slow boil and add the mussels. Cover the pan and wait about 2 minutes.
- Remove the open mussels. Continue checking for open mussels about once every minute. Throw out the ones that won’t open but save the water.
- Twist off the half shells without meat and discard. Put the half shells with meat in the fridge until you're ready to put them on the paella.
- Cut the onion and bell pepper into quarters and place them in a large pot with the rest of the broth ingredients including the water from cooking the mussels.
- Boil it down until you've got about ½ gallon of broth. Occasionally press the ingredients against the bottom of the pot with the potato masher to squeeze out their flavors.
- Strain the broth and set aside. Discard the boiled seafood and chicken wings. If you don't like the idea of throwing out food then eat it as a snack but don't include it in the paella.
- Taste the broth. It should have a strong seafood flavor and moderate chicken flavor.
- Cut the red bell pepper into strips.
- Pour a pool of oil into the center of the paellera. The pool should be about 2 inches from the edge of the paellera on all sides. Heat over a high flame.
- Cook the pepper strips just long enough to scorch them. Remove them and set aside.
- Add ½ tablespoon salt to the chicken and sauté until golden brown.
- Add the garlic and sauté until it’s brown but be careful not to burn. This step should only take about a minute to 90 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, paprika, onions and diced peppers. Sauté until all the vegetables are tender to make a sofrito.
- Add 960 milliliters (4 cups) of broth along with the food coloring and another ½ tablespoon salt. Mix well.
- Bring the broth to a rolling boil then lower the heat a bit to allow the broth to simmer for about two minutes.
- Taste the broth and invite your dinner guests to do so as well—this is a custom in Spain. The broth should have a very lightly salted flavor.
- Add the rice and mix well. Once again, bring the broth to a rolling boil then reduce the heat to create a moderate simmer. Frequently mix the ingredients well to prevent burning.
- Begin tasting the rice after it's been simmering for about 20 minutes and reduce the heat a bit. Make sure the rice doesn't get too soft. Check the rice again every 10 minutes and reduce the heat slightly after each taste. Your goal is to wind up with rice that has a slightly underdone center. The time it takes to reach this point can vary from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on your cooking gear.
- Add the seafood (except for the mussels) along with the beans and cover it all with rice. Allow the paella to simmer for 10 more minutes. Don't mix the ingredients during this final phase. Your paella is done once the rice is just slightly firm to the bite (al dente), the paella is a little moist but not soupy, and there is a bit of toasted rice on the bottom of the paellera. The toasted rice is considered a delicacy throughout the Spanish-speaking world.
- Remove the paellaera from the heat and cover it with a clean, white towel. Then, allow it to sit for 5 minutes, which will give the rice some time to absorb more water.
- Remove the towel, place the mussels around the edge of the paellera with the round edges facing down, and push them down into the rice. If your mussels have become very cold from sitting in the fridge then heat them in a microwave oven for no more than 30 seconds.
- Arrange the pepper strips on top of the paella like spokes in a wheel. Your paella is now ready to serve.
Notes, tips, and variations edit
- This recipe calls for live mussels. Please read these safety guidelines for buying, eating and cooking live bivalves (mussels and clams).
- Never use stewed beans.
- Throughout history, saffron has been the natural ingredient used in Spain to color rice yellow. However, it's very expensive (a pound costs over US$1,500) because it's labor intensive to process and each saffron crocus yields a minuscule amount of saffron. Consequently, supermarkets sell only a few grams per container for three or four US dollars. The best solution to this problem is to use commercially manufactured food coloring containing both natural and artificial ingredients (but usually no saffron). The two most popular US brands are Bijol and Badia. These companies sell containers each holding several ounces of coloring for less than five US dollars.