Paella is a wholesome and soulful meal that is meant for sharing. It transforms relatively humble ingredients into a deliciously complex and pleasing dining experience. While I love traditional Valencia-style seafood paella and never hesitate to order it at Spanish tapas restaurants, I find myself hard-pressed for time trying to juggle work, fitness, chores, taking care of Benji (my senior dog), spending quality time with my loved ones, meal prepping, and finding calm and tranquility in my day. Wow, it feels so much more overwhelming now that I’ve listed my responsibilities so exhaustively. And I’m sure the average person is struggling with similar challenges of having too much to do in the day and simply not having enough time and energy. This is why I am a fan of simple and hands-off cooking techniques. You remember the “set it and forget it” slogan from Ronco’s Showtime rotisserie machine? Maybe I just dated myself…Anyhow, I often use non-fussy cooking methods that will provide quick returns or at least require less of my attention and time. This is why I am a huge fan of the slow cooker and one-pot meals. Searing and boiling food, and then allowing it cook itself with minimal monitoring? Sign me up! So, I made a variation of seafood paella that veers away from tradition. I cover my rice with a lid to allow it to steam rather than babysitting it for an hour, carefully ladling broth in and massaging the rice. As much as I would love to do that, I am just pressed for time. I guess this recipe is more of an “arroz con mariscos” because other Latin-American countries also use the lidded pot for its steaming properties rather than the traditional paella cooking method
I made this for my family during one of our weekly Wednesday night dinner’s at my dad’s house. My sister has been having a stressful time in school, and I wanted to show my support in one of the best ways I know how: by nourishing her body and soul. I was really shocked when my father actually made positive comments about my dish. He comes from a culinary background as a dim sum chef, and he also has this strange idea in his head that Chinese and Vietnamese foods are the only ones worth eating. Yes, I realize that his is a very narrow-minded approach to food than most, and I most heartily disagree, but that’s my father for you. I have learned to accept it, as you must do with most circumstances in life that are out of your hands. I have also learned to accept that he will likely never approve of anything that I make or think that it is tasty. It will never be authentically Chinese enough or Vietnamese enough. Which was why I was really shocked at his words “Wow, it looks good!” when I placed the finished paella on the dinner table. So there is your food miracle for the day. =P I hope that this dish brings some positive moments with you and your loved ones as it did with mine.
When in doubt, always have your fire lower rather than higher when you are cooking any potted rice dish with the lid closed. It is better to have to cook your dish longer than to have burnt rice. No one likes that. I prefer to cook my paella on medium low heat.
When cooking rice, I prefer to put less water than to put too much water because I hate mushy rice. Then, I will slowly add more liquid toward the end of cooking if the rice does not become soft to the desired texture of chewiness. Usually when cooking white rice, the ratio of liquid to rice should be 1:1.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Serves 6-8 people
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 heads shallots, minced
pinch of salt
½ lb chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch chunks
½ sweet onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
½ Kielbasa or any spicy cooked sausage
3 cups Arborio rice, washed and drained
½ cup dry white wine
1 can crushed tomatoes
½ quart of chicken broth
1 tbsp seasoned salt, or to taste (Trader Joe’s seasoned salt or Goya seasoning)
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp saffron
½ lb large shrimp, deveined and peeled
½ lb calamari, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
lemon wedges for squeezing
Heat a large and deep skillet/pan on high heat. Add in oil, and fry garlic and shallots for 2-3 minutes, or until soft. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the frying pan. Allow to brown.
Remove chicken from the pan. Add in more olive oil and stir fry onion and bell pepper on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes.
Add chicken back into the pan, along with Kielbasa, and stir fry together with vegetables on high heat for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with seasoned salt. Add rice to the pan to stir fry together with meat and vegetables.
Add in wine, crushed tomatoes, and chicken broth. Season to taste with seasoning salt, paprika, and saffron. Mix rice thoroughly with liquids and then turn heat on medium low.
Place the lid on the pan, and allow rice to simmer on medium low heat for 20-30 minutes, depending on your stove and how often you peak at the rice. When most of the liquid has evaporated, check rice for doneness. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add chicken broth or water as needed.
When your rice is just “al dente” mix calamari into the paella and place shrimp on top of paella and place the lid back on. Allow to steam and finish cooking until rice reaches desired level of doneness and most liquid has evaporated (~5 minutes).
Remove from heat, and serve with lots of green onion and lemon wedges on top.
Enjoy with your loved ones!