Paella is a classic dish that comes from Valencia, Spain, and is one of their most identifiable dishes. Made with a combination of shrimp, mussels, chorizo, chicken thighs, tomatoes, rice, garlic, saffron, white wine, rice, and peas, it hits all the taste hotspots. And this version can be made in a Dutch oven, no paella pan required.
Soccarat, a layer of crusty browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, is a traditional part of paella. In our paella, soccarat does not develop because most of the cooking is done in the oven. We have provided instructions to develop soccarat in step 6; if you prefer, skip this step and go directly from step 5 to step 7. For this recipe, we’ve suggest garnishing with parsley but you can also use fresh rosemary, as seen in the photograph.–The Editors of Cook’s Illustrated
This paella recipe calls for making it in a Dutch oven (the Dutch oven should be 11 to 12 inches in diameter with at least a 6-quart capacity). With minor modifications, it can also be made in a paella pan. Cured Spanish chorizo is the sausage of choice for paella, but fresh chorizo or Portuguese linguiça is an acceptable substitute.
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position; heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Toss the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic in a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set aside.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the pepper strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin begins to blister and turn spotty black, 3 to 4 minutes. Move the pepper to a small plate and set it aside.
Add 1 teaspoon oil to the now-empty Dutch oven; heat the oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer; cook, without moving the pieces, until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown on the second side, about 3 minutes longer; dump the chicken into a medium bowl. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chorizo to the pot; cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned and the fat begins to render, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chorizo to the bowl with the chicken and set aside.
Add enough oil to the fat in the Dutch oven to equal 2 tablespoons; heat over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes; stir in the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes; cook until the mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the grains are well coated with the tomato mixture, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return the chicken and chorizo to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and place it in the oven; cook until the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid, about 15 minutes.
Remove the paella from the oven (close the oven door to retain heat). Uncover the paella; scatter the shrimp over the rice, insert the mussels hinged-side down into the rice (so they stand upright), arrange the bell pepper strips in a pinwheel pattern, and scatter the peas over the top. Cover and return to the oven; cook until the shrimp are opaque and the mussels have opened, 10 to 12 minutes.
Optional: If soccarat (see headnote) is desired, set the Dutch oven, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating the pot 180 degrees after about 2 minutes for even browning.
Let the paella stand, covered, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened and the bay leaf, if it can be easily removed. Sprinkle the paella with the parsley and serve, passing the lemon wedges separately.
*What kinds of rice can I use in paella?
This recipe suggests Valencia or Arborio rice and there’s a reason for that. First of all, paella is from Valencia, Spain, so it stands to reason that the recipe evolved using the rice from the region as well. But there’s a good reason for it–short-grain rice can absorb a lot of liquid before turning to a soft, mushy mess.
It also tends to clump together when cooked, giving it an advantage when you’re cooking up that crispy socarrat on the bottom. If you’re really, really stuck, medium-grain rice will work ok but long-grain rice will give you a completely different result that will be nothing like paella.
Serving: 1portionCalories: 573kcal (29%)Carbohydrates: 66g (22%)Protein: 40g (80%)Fat: 14g (22%)Saturated Fat: 4g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 195mg (65%)Sodium: 1437mg (62%)Potassium: 760mg (22%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 4g (4%)Vitamin A: 1237IU (25%)Vitamin C: 57mg (69%)Calcium: 113mg (11%)Iron: 7mg (39%)
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Originally published October 07, 2005