Paella

Paella

Paella is a classic dish from eastern Spain. Recipes vary widely, but are always based around rice, saffron, and olive oil. It is traditionally cooked over an open fire in a wide, flat pan called a paellera. In that spirit of outdoor cooking, this is a simple version that has been adapted to work well on a grill.

Paella Mixto (serves 2-4)

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon of saffron
  • 1 teaspoon of sweet smoked Spanish paprika
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2 inch chunks and lightly salted
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 lb of Spanish cooking chorizo, cut in 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1 lb medium raw shrimp, shelled
  • 1 1/2 cups Bomba or Calasparra rice
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 3 tablespoons capers

Like a lot of dishes on the grill, timing is everything with paella. Having all of the ingredients measured, washed, chopped and placed in individual bowls lets you concentrate on cooking and makes even complicated dishes easy to put together.

Heat the broth with the saffron and the paprika. Keep warm and nearby.

Get your grill up to medium-high (about 400°F). You want to provide a wide, even heat that can be maintained with the lid open. You don’t want any hot spots. You can accomplish this on the Big Green Egg by putting the paellera directly over a well-established fire on a raised grid.  On other grills you can achieve this by cooking indirectly, or by using a diffuser like a pizza stone under the pan.

Use a metal paella pan with about a 13-14 inch bottom. I really like this enameled pan that Cook’s Illustrated rated highly. Add enough olive oil to cover to bottom well. Heat the oil for a few minutes and then add the chicken pieces and fry until brown. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add the chopped onion and garlic. Saute until the onion is soft. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes break down and the mixture thickens and darkens. Add more oil if needed. This is your sofrito. It adds depth to the dish and provides a base for all you other flavors.

Add the rice and saute 1-2 minutes until the rice is translucent.

If you want to add some wood for smoke, now is the time. Grape vine is traditional but any fruit wood will work.

Stir in the chicken broth and try to spread the rice out as evenly as possible. Once you have a relatively uniform layer, leave it alone. This is the last time you will stir the paella as the rice needs to sit undisturbed on the bottom of the pan to developed the tasty brown crust called the soccarat.

Arrange the browned chicken, pepper, chorizo, peas, capers, and shrimp on top of the rice. Try to make it even and pretty. Close the lid and lower your grill temperature to 350°F degrees. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed – about 30 minutes.

Once the liquid is gone, bump the heat up to 400°F and start listening closely. The paella will start to crackle, and you might smell a  toasted odor that tells you the rice is browning and forming the soccarat. Test by running a spatula under the rice to feel for a slightly bumpy bottom. Once you feel this, remove the paella from the heat.

Let the paella rest, covered with foil, for about 10 minutes before serving.