I call this paella free-style, because it contains a mixture of meat and seafood. This is so much fun to make, and makes a wonderful centerpiece to any dinner party – when I tell my friends we’re having paella, they ask if they can come early to watch, so I have my mise en place, and it’s a party in the kitchen with lots of wine and pintxos.
For the seafood component, we used shrimp and clams because they looked best – you can use mussels if you like, just make sure to soak, clean and de-beard them. To clean the clams, combine 1/4 cup of coarse salt per quart of water, and soak for about half an hour.
I lent my paella pan to another friend, and couldn’t get it back in time, but I use all-clad copper core pans, so heat is evenly distributed – if you don’t have a paella pan, just make sure you have a large enough pan that distributes heat evenly.
Free-Style Paella – 6-8 servings
1/2 teaspoon threads saffron, crushed
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2″ pieces
10 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces dry-cured Spanish chorizo, cut into 1⁄4″-thick coins
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 dried bay leaves
3 medium tomatoes, minced
1 small onion, minced
7 cups chicken broth
2 1⁄2 cups Bomba or Valencia rice
1 can of 8-10 count artichoke hearts
3 jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
10 clams, cleaned
8 ounces frozen peas, thawed
Put the saffron and 1⁄4 cup of hot water in a small bowl and let it sit for 15 minutes.
Season the chicken and shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 16″–18″ paella pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, shrimp, chorizo and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate, leaving the chicken and chorizo in the pan. Add the paprika, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, and onions to the pan and cook, stirring often until the onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add the reserved saffron mixture and broth, season with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Sprinkle in the rice, distributing it evenly with a spoon, and add the artichokes and peppers. Cook, without stirring, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, 10–12 minutes. (If your pan is larger than the burner, rotate it every two minutes so different parts are over the heat and the rice cooks evenly.) Reduce the heat to low, add the reserved shrimp, peas, and nestle in the clams hinge side down; cook, without stirring, until clams have opened and rice has absorbed the liquid and is al dente, about 5–10 minutes more. Remove pan from heat, cover with aluminum foil, and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
To serve, go family-style and place the pan in the center of the table, or on large platter.
Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!