Paella is a dish that seems complicated, but it’s not. Essentially a rice pilaf loaded with meats and vegetables, it cooks for hours in a shallow pan over an open flame. Cooking paella can take several hours, but this one comes together much faster. You can also cook it on your stovetop.
Traditional Valenciana style paella with chicken reflects its birthplace, Valencia, Spain. Born of melded cultural flavors after eighth century Arabic invasions introduced rice to the region, paella was cooked by the farmers who tended the orange trees and rice paddies surrounding a fresh water lagoon, L’Albufera de València. Prepared with what foods they had on hand, paella was eaten during lunchtime, with workers each spooning their meal from a large paella pan.
Although shrimp was not historically included in a paella, it can make a colorful addition.
The typical procedure for a rice pilaf-style dish like paella follows these steps: brown meat, vegetables, and rice separately in oil. Browning rice gives it a nutty flavor, but more importantly, allows cooking time to be extended. Liquid is added to the pan along with spices like curry, turmeric, and saffron. Slow cooking infuses the rice with flavor pulled from the meats and spices; browning it first keeps the rice from becoming mushy.
Once the water has completely absorbed and the meats are cooked through, you will hear a crackling coming from the bottom of the pan. That means your paella is ready to eat!
While you can cook paella in a pan designed for that purpose, a wide, shallow pan can work equally well.
Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Paella Recipe
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 10 chicken legs
- 6 ounces smoked sausage links, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds — Aidell’s is a good choice because of all the interesting flavor combos to add depth to your paella
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large sweet onion, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1 red or green pepper, diced
- 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice — basmati rice is a good choice
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/2 tsp saffron, crumbled
- 4 cups low-salt chicken broth (more as needed if paella is dry)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left on
- 1 cup frozen peas
Cook the recipe:
Using an authentic paella pan or large, shallow skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high until shimmering. Next, brown chicken legs on all sides until skin is deeply colored. Remove chicken to clean plate.
Add sausage and garlic to pan and brown in rendered chicken fat until lightly browned and garlic is aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove to small bowl.
Pour remaining olive oil into skillet and sauté onion with red or green pepper until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add rice, paprika, and saffron to skillet, stirring to coat rice with spices. Cook until rice is translucent, about 2 minutes.
Stir in chicken broth and tomatoes and raise heat to bring liquids to a boil. Scrape bottom of pan to loosen browned bits, stirring to incorporate them into the liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Return sausage-garlic mixture to pan, folding it into rice. Arrange chicken legs in circle around the pan, nestling them into the rice mixture. Pour any juices that have accumulated on the plate into the pan. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes, or until liquid is reduced.
Nestle shrimp into rice and sprinkle with peas. Cover, adding broth if paella is dry. Steam shrimp and peas until shrimp is pink, about 4 minutes.
Serve in shallow bowls.