Many areas in Spain have their own proud recipe for paella. In the beginning paella used to be sort of leftover recipe. In Valencian area chicken and rabbit are popular while in the southern part of the peninsula seafood is often used in paella. However, the most important ingredient in paella is rice. It must be mushy enough in order to make the structure just right. Traditional paella rice is called bomba. This variety absorbs a third more liquid than regular rice and therefore contains a huge amount of flavor from the liquid.
The following recipe have developed during our 3-year stay in Andalucia. However, the original inspiration came from Spain on the road again TV show where Martio Batali, Gwynet Paltrow and Mark Bittman toured in Spain searching for culinaristic experiences. In the 12th episode they visit a Spanish señor, which makes a paella for his family. Mario calls the guy “The Zen Master of Paella”! The whole episode is can be watched in Youtube and original recipe is also available. Our recipe combines chicken, gambón-shrimps and mussels. It is quite usual mixture in Costa del Sol area and here it is called Paella Mixta.
As mentioned, the most important ingredient in paella is the rice and also the liquid used cooking the rise. For the liquid we often use homemade fish stock made out of bones and heads, because it gives full flavor for paella. If you don’t have any stock, you can make it of fish or vegetable stock cubes as well.
Paella is a typical Sunday dish, but because market hall is closed on Sundays, we did the shopping on Saturday. We had some snap peas and small padrón paprikas as leftovers so we decided to use those in the paella, too. There were paprikas, mussles, shrimps and chicken brests in our shopping list.
Paella Mixta for 4 Servings
- 1 big onion – cebolla grande
- 3 cloves of garlic – dientes de ajo
- 1 yellow paprika – pimiento amarillo
- 1 red paprika – pimiento rojo
- 1 green paprika – padrónes o pimiento verde
- 1/2 bottle (2 cups) of white wine – vino blanco
- 1/2 litre (2 cups) of fish or vegetable stock – caldo de pescado o verduras
- extra virgin olive oil – aceite oliva extra virgen, AOEV
- sea salt to taste – sal marina
- saffron – azafrán
- 1 teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika – pimentón dulce
- 350 g (12 oz) of mushy rice – arroz bomba
- 10 mussels – mejillones
- 10 shrimps – gambónes
- 2 chicken breasts – pechugas de pollo
Snap peas and padrón paprikas were leftovers and I don’t usually buy them specifically for making paella, but as they were in the fridge, why not put use them as well. Snap peas should be cooked quickly in boiling water before using. Less than a minute will do. Cut the onions and paprikas into small cubes. If you wish to decorate the finished dish with colorful paprika strips, cut them on the side now.
Real paella pan is shallow and wide and it requires own gas burner or fire underneath to work properly. We don’t have such facilities, so we used our terrace grill’s side burner with teflon wok pan. Heat the pan, pour a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil (like Mario says in the Youtube video, ”the recipe propably says use a tablespoon of olive oil…”). Soften the onions and paprika and throw about a tee spoon of smoked paprika on top. You can add a pinch of sea salt at this point as well. When paprikas are soft, put them on the side to wait and add the cubed chicken breasts into the oil to brown.
When the chicken cubes begin to brown, pour the cubed paprikas in. Open the wine and slowly our about half the bottle on the pan and add about half of the fish stock, too. Check the taste of the wine 🙂 Mix the saffron in, too. When the fish stock and wine begin to boil, add the rice. Traditional Spanish style is to do a cross of the rice and then slowly stir it with the stock.
Now you’ll have time to clean the mussels and peel the shrimps. Make sure that there is enough liquid in the paella so that it doesn’t begin to burn. Add fish stock and/or wine as needed. Do not stir too much. The stock/wine mixture is the most important ingredient in paella. Bomba rice is able to drink a huge amount of stock. About 350 g of rice can absorb over a litre of stock. You must add stock slowly and check the paella every now and then to see if the rice is done (about al dente) or does it need more liquid.
When rice is al dente, add shrimps and mussels on top and stir carefully. It takes only couple of minutes for them to cook. Do not overcook, otherwise seafood gets rubbery texture. When the paella is ready, you can decorate it with paprika strips and shrimps. At this point the bottle of wine used for the stock is gone. Trust us, it is. It’s time to open a new one and put the pan on the table. If you got the rice absolutely perfect, it wont drop, if you put it on spoon tightly and turn it over.