Viva Espana Brown Rice Paella

by Anne Bennett on July 12, 2010

Everything cooks together in one big Dutch oven.

The moment Spain won the World Cup on Sunday I got a text from my friend Laura that read, “You have to put a paella recipe on the blog to honor Spain.” Laura, you are a woman of good taste and exceptional timing.

Paella is considered by many to be the national dish of Spain; if you travel around the country you will get different versions of the dish everywhere you go. Most include rice and some sort of seafood and/or meat. This recipe, adapted from Cooks Illustrated, contains some of both.

Paella is seasoned with saffron, the world’s most expensive spice (because it comes from the hand-picked stigmas of saffron crocus flowers). So far as I know, there is no substitute for the taste of saffron, but you can use turmeric to get the same yellow color. If you decide to splurge on a tiny bit of saffron, which is how it’s sold, it will keep in a tightly sealed jar for at least two years. Hey, you only live once. Take a risk, but for the taste-faint-of-heart, I warn you, saffron has a unique, albeit fabulous, taste.

I suggest that you make this dish your own. It can easily be altered to cater to your taste preferences without any changes in the cooking times. For instance, we like foods spicy so we add either Tabasco or Frank’s Original Hot Sauce to our paella.

If you’d prefer to forego the seafood or the sausage, by all means do so. I’ve even made completely vegetarian paellas that were delicious and chock-full of vegetables, including artichoke hearts and sugar snap peas. The main thing is to cook the rice together with the other ingredients in the oven so that the flavors meld. This recipe is made with brown rice, which takes a bit longer to cook but has a wonderful texture.

My mother used to make a huge pan of paella whenever she had a crowd over for dinner. (She also made a killer jambalaya.) It’s perfect for entertaining because people can serve themselves what they want right from the pot.

OK, so this is a bit labor-intensive by American microwave-and-eat standards, but it goes together quickly and once it’s in the oven it’s a no-brainer. Whining is not allowed on hungry poodle.

Serve the paella sprinkled with parsley and lemon wedges. All you need is a great salad and some Spanish wine.

1 lb. shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined
6 garlic colves, minced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and halved crosswise
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1/2″ wide strips
8 oz. Spanish chorizo or linguica, sliced 1/2″ thick on the bias
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained, minced, and drained again
2 cups long-grain brown rice
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1 bay leaf
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
Chopped parsley
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss shrimp with 1/4 t. salt, black pepper and 1 t. of the minced garlic. Set aside. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 t. of oil in a large Dutch oven an add red bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until their skins begin to blister and turn black. Transfer peppers to a small plate.

Add another teaspoon of oil to the pot and add the chicken pieces. Brown on both sides. Transfer to a bowl and add the chorizo to the now-empty pot. Cook until well-browned. Place in the bowl with the chicken.

Add the onion to the pot and cook until softened; stir in the remaining garlic. Stir in the tomatoes and cook about 3 minutes. Add the rice and coat it well with the tomato mixture. Stir in the chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay leaf and 1/2 t. salt. Bring to a boil, cover the pot and place in the oven.

Cook for 30 minutes. Remove the pot and add the chicken and chorizo, pushing them down into the rice mixture. Replace lid and transfer to oven. Cook another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and add the shrimp. Insert the mussels into the rice hinged-side down so that they stand upright; arrange the red bell peppers in a pinwheel pattern and scatter peas over top. Cover and return to oven and cook until shrimp are opaque and mussels have opened, about 12 minutes.

Allow paella to stand, covered, for several minutes. Discard any mussels that don’t open and remove bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce.

Serves: 6

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

lin July 12, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Anne, have you found a lower fat chorizo? Hoping to make this for tomorrow night after I figure the points. Little too much celebrating this week so need low point dinners. 🙂

amy July 13, 2010 at 5:39 am

Yum! we actually had paella on Sunday at our Spanish friends house to anticipate and finally celebrate the World CUp. Que viva Espana! Oh, I love the idea of a veggie paella too. Last night I fixed a Spanish omelet or tortilla for dinner. You can pack a ton of healthy veggies into one of those as well.

Alphonse Scheeler December 5, 2010 at 5:40 am

Thanks, thats quite useful to know! I admit I’m a bit useless in the kitchen, but I’m trying my best to learn. Admitting is the first step to recovery right!!? I promised to cook something for my wife this weekend for the first time – very exciting! I found some simple recipe at this site, seems to be designed exactly for me, which is fantastic! Anyway, thanks for your tips, I’ll be sure to subscribe to your site to read more.

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