Umami Recipes
Umami Recipes

Liam's Recipes

Valencian-Style Weeknight Paella

2-3

servings

20 minutes

active time

45 minutes

total time

Ingredients

½ lb chicken thighs (can be replaced with any other meat, or lima beans for vegan)

1 handful fresh green beans (stems trimmed and cut into manageable lengths)

1 shallot, finely diced (or ½ onion)

1 small sweet pepper, diced (or ½ bell pepper)

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup white wine (stock or water can be substituted)

1 cup water (or stock)

1 cup short grain rice (spanish bomba rice is traditional, but arborio, carnaroli, or other medium grain rices will work)

Big squeeze of tomato paste (about 2 tsp)

1 pinch saffron strands (~125 mg)

Lemon juice

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Directions

Heat a wide, shallow pan over medium heat. Add the saffron to toast dry for about a minute, or until fragrant. Remove the saffron and put it in a microwave safe measuring jug and break it up with your fingertip into fine pieces. Add the cup each of wine and water, and microwave until the liquid is hot. Set aside for the saffron to further steep during the next steps.

Add a thin film of olive oil in the same pan and bring it up to heat over medium flame until the oil is shimmering. Season the chicken thighs aggressively with salt and pepper, and evenly spread them in the pan. Get them browned on as many sides as possible, until you’re afraid that the fond will burn.

Remove the browned chicken thighs from the pan and add the shallot and peppers with a pinch of salt, and scrape up the fond with the moisture they release. Add a splash of water if you can’t get it all. Saute the onions and peppers until they’re softened and a little browned, a couple of minutes in total.

Add the tomato paste, green beans, and minced garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until the garlic is about to burn.

Pour in all the liquid and saffron. Stir and scrape off any fond on the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt, remembering that you’re also seasoning all the rice here. Add in the chicken.

Stir in the rice, and bring the liquid up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a high simmer, and never stir the paella again. Let it cook until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and is almost cooked through, testing a few grains every so often. If the rice is still too dry in patches, add extra water as needed, but be conservative.

When the rice is almost done but not quite fully cooked through, turn the heat up to boil out any excess water and start forming the bottom browned layer of rice (socarrat). Use your smell and hearing to determine when the bottom is browning, and take it off the heat just before it starts to burn. A good first attempt marker is to take it off the heat as soon as you smell or hear any burning. If you’re too conservative with the heat your first time, just adjust your method the next time.

Let the paella rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Use a rigid serving spoon to scoop the paella and the browned socarrat , not leaving any to waste. Squeeze lemon juice to taste at the table, and enjoy!

Notes

This is a weeknight-dinner streamlined approach to the traditional Valencian dish “paella”. There are many regional variations of this famous Spanish dish, and the Valencian rendition is made with chicken, rabbit, and often snails. This streamlined version uses chicken thighs, but almost any meat you have would work. The key component that sets paella apart from other rice dishes is what’s called ‘socarrat’. This refers to the bottom layer of rice that gets the most direct heat, caramelizing and crisping up. The exact same idea as the crispy rice in Iranian tahdig, Korean dolsot bibimbap, and Chinese bo zai fan. To maximize this effect, be sure to cook this paella in a wide, shallow pan. On a final note, this recipe is pretty saffron-forward and uses minimal other spices, but feel free to experiment and look up other spices to add, like paprika!

2-3

servings

20 minutes

active time

45 minutes

total time
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