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chicken & shrimp paella

I've had this paella pan for a couple years now that I picked up at World Market that has moved with me several times. I've never used it until yesterday. We have this Spanish tapas restaurant here in Chicago, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, that I love and was introduced to it by some very good friends of mine. We had ordered their paella (and their skinny spicy margarita - remind me to post my version of that drink sometime soon!!!) and it was awesome. Reminded me of my vacation in Barcelona and I really wanted to try to make it myself. My friends came over yesterday for dinner and I immediately thought that this was the time to dust off my paella pan. To accompany this meal, I made a simple pan con tomato, potatoes bravas and blistered shishito peppers which I make all the time (recipes links included).

Pan con tomato is simply some grilled artisan bread that is rubbed with a garlic clove and a ripe tomato. So simple but so delicious. Pairs super well with the paella and sides and beautiful in its simplicity too! I sprayed some artisan bread with some really good olive oil and roasted it in the oven at 375F for about 5 to 8 minutes and that was all it took. While it was warm, I rubbed the garlic and tomato on it and it was ready to be plated. Some recipes call for the tomato to be grated and spread on thickly but I prefer mine to be just slightly flavored with the tomato so that you can taste all the different components. Either way, I stand behind the premise that toasty bread, ripe tomatoes and garlic are a classic combo. Add in a Spanish charcuterie board with Spanish olives, meats and cheeses and you are completely set for a mouth watering appetizer for a crowd!




Back to the paella! I was sure that my fire alarms would go off with this recipe. Like Asian wok cooking, you need to get the paella pan fairly hot. I live in a condo and for some reason I have an inordinate amount of smoke detectors and they are loud! I know because they ALWAYS go off when I am searing a steak on my cast iron pan. I was completely prepared for them to go off and I didn't even care. Tonight's meal was special and I was all in! (Spoiler: they didn't go off - the weather was amazing so I had my balcony door and windows opened to help facilitate any smoke)

Doesn't it look amazing??? It was relatively simple to make but the flavors were amazing! There are lots of variations of paella that you can make with a bunch of different proteins that you can use but I had chicken thighs and shrimp on hand so that is what I used. I've seen many ways to cook paella and to be honest, a lot of it was contradicting each other so I decided to just wing it based on what made the most sense to me. While you can use any veggies that you want, I had on hand, some green beans and a red bell pepper. In this recipe, the vegetables get cooked down all the way so pretty much any vegetable would work. Traditionally, (depending on what region you are in) broad beans, white beans, green beans, artichokes, bell peppers, etc... are used. Paella is really about the rice though. So I would suggest keeping the vegetable count to a minimum and the same with the protein count. Traditionally chicken and rabbit are used for paella or you could go in a seafood direction with shrimp, fish, mussels, clams, etc... but again, you don't want to overwhelm your paella with too much so that you can't taste the rice. It is infused with so much flavor that it really is the star of the dish. Two flavor profiles that you really need for a paella are paprika and saffron. Saffron is a bit pricey but a little goes a long way and .5 grams is all that you need for this dish to make it a masterpiece!


Chicken & Shrimp Paella


INGREDIENTS:

1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in with skin, cut in halves

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 white onion, diced

4 cups chicken broth, hot

1/4 cup tomato puree

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 (.5g) Saffron

1 1/2 cups Paella rice (short grained rice)

1/2 red bell pepper, large diced

1/2 cup green beans, chopped into small pieces

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

parsley, to garnish


DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat up a paella pan (or a large deep frying or cast iron pan) at a medium-high heat. Add a nice amount of salt to the hot pan. Add in the olive oil and let the oil and salt heat up.

  2. Add your chicken pieces, skin side down, to the paella pan and let it sit there to get really brown for about 7 to 8 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook again for another 7 to 8 minutes.

  3. Move the chicken to the edges of the paella pan and in the center, add the onions, red bell peppers and green beans to the pan. Sauté for about 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are translucent in color.

  4. Turn the heat down to a medium low and add the garlic. Mix everything together including the chicken and sauté for another minute.

  5. Add the tomato puree and paprika and cook for another couple of minutes.

  6. Add in the hot chicken broth and then the saffron and mix everything gently together. Bring the mixture to a boil. At this point, I like to taste the mixture and see if I need to add in any more salt. If needed, add in some with some freshly ground black pepper.

  7. Add the rice around the whole pan, gently mix everything around until all the rice is covered in liquid and on medium high heat, boil the mixture, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. NOTE: after the initial mixing of the rice into the liquid, do not mix again. You should gently shake the pan every once in awhile and rotate the pan on the stove a few times to ensure that everything is cooking evenly but you don't want to stir the rice too much otherwise all the starches will release.

  8. After about 15 minutes, add the shrimp to the mixture, cover with two large pieces of foil and cook for another 5 minutes on medium-low heat.

  9. Turn off the stove and and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

  10. Garnish with parsley and serve the paella in it's pan straight to the table and watch as your guests or family oooh and ahhh!

You can also have wedges of lemon for guests to squeeze into their paella but don't squeeze it all over the pan. So many rules that I have found online to make authentic paella! All I know is that it is dang delicious!! Everyone agrees though - the best part? The socarrat on the bottom of the pan - the crunchy, crusty, browned rice cooked in all the fat...that crunchy goodness mixed into the rest of the dish are like flavor bombs and so unbelievably good!


To keep myself in line with my Bright Line Eating that I've adopted, I ate 4 oz of chicken and shrimp and a lot of blistered shishito peppers for my meal. And as a true foodie would do, I had the full deal for breakfast this morning when I am allowed grains! 4 oz of chicken/shrimp, 4 oz of rice for my grain, 1 serving of fruit and I would estimate about 1 oz of vegetables. Even though the pan con tomato is pictured below - I was strong and didn't actually eat it! Yay me - day 7 down!

Cue the drool.




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