Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Oh man, I love paella. I often dream of building a huge firepit in the backyard and doing nothing but cooking paella on it. However, that dream is going to have to sit on the backburner for a bit while the mini cast iron skillets move to the front burner.

To cook paella, there is a pretty critical technique for success, but it's actually quite simple to do at home on your stovetop, and with excellent results. I wouldn't post this if the result was mediocre. It's basically a one-pot stop. So let's get started!

What you need:
  1. Cast iron skillet (the one in the photo is a $10 8-inch skillet from Sur La Table thus the recipe is for this serving size)
  2. 1 cup rice - I used basmati because it's what I had but tradition calls for Arborio or Bomba
  3. 3 cups stock - tradition calls for clam or fish stock but I used chicken stock and water (only b/c I barely had stock so I had to use the water)
  4. Whatever ingredients YOU want - for this I used shrimp and mushrooms and in another skillet I used andouille sausage and mushrooms.
  5. Salt, pepper, and SAFFRON!

One more thing you need: Sofrito. Sofrito is a really common base used in Spanish, Latin, Haitian, Puerto Rican, etc., cooking. In Spain, it's tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Cook finely chopped onions in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt and sugar until they're caramelized. Then add tomato sauce or run some tomatoes through a grater so it's all just mush. Add that to the caramelized onions and cook for a while until the sauce starts to separate from the oil. That's it.

Ok now that you have your sofrito, here are the next steps:
  1. Heat the skillet with oil. If you're using shrimp, let them get a good grill on before removing them. Cook them only HALF WAY because you'll be finishing them off at the end.
  2. Take out the shrimp, set aside on a plate, then throw in the sofrito and other ingredients like sausage and mushrooms. Cook it all down for about 10 minutes.
  3. Pour the rice in and cook around the pan with the other ingredients for 1 minute.
  4. Pour in the stock! Make sure all the ingredients are now LEVEL under the liquid.
  5. Turn up the heat, bring to a boil, and cook for 6 minutes. DO NOT STIR ANYTHING.
  6. Taste the top of the liquid and make sure there is enough salt and flavor. Whatever that liquid tastes like is what your rice is going to taste like so make sure it tastes good! (I added a pretty solid pinch of salt at this point.)
  7. Turn down the heat, crumble your saffron threads around the top, and simmer for another 11 minutes.
  8. After 6 minutes pass, place the shrimp back in the way you see in the picture because they're going to bake into the final dish that way. Leave it alone.
  9. When the 11 minutes are up, turn off the stove and cover with a towel to allow for settling/final steaming.

The only other thing you may want to add which is traditional but not necessary is a garlic aioli. If you don't feel like going all out with a time-consuming emulsion, just grind some garlic with salt until it's a mush and mix with some mayonnaise.

And that's it! Just put the hot skillet on a towel on a plate and share with someone worth all the effort.

Wine pairing: I'd recommend a pinot noir. I personally don't like Tempranillo because it always gives me a headache WHILE I'm still drinking it but, either way, go with a red for sure.

*gluten free

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