some may not call this paella and i call those people spaniards. for everyone else, this is a close enough facsimile of the real thing.
my version is a bastardized version of the mark bittman paella that he has published in his book, in his column, and on his website. it’s different enough that i’m ok with providing a recipe here and not crediting him, but it’s similar enough that if you’ve tried his before and liked it, you’ll like this as well. papa fritz isn’t usually fond of the bittman repertoire, he finds the recipes bland. i like their simple ingredients and the short time required to cook them. and my response to papa fritz is that the easy solution for bland is to add some spice and herbs here and there.
the beauty of this recipe lies in its simplicity. there are not many ingredients, and therefore, the ones you use should be of the highest possible (or available) quality. each ingredient is a key player here, so don’t skimp.
- olive oil
- one small onion, diced
- salt + pepper
- 2 cups arborio* rice
- 4 cups chicken stock
- one 28 oz. can plum tomatoes
- pinch of saffron (optional)
- smoked paprika (optional)
- chorizo, cut into chunks
- shrimp, peeled, cleaned, and de-veined
preheat the oven to 425 degrees. in a large heavy-bottomed pot (preferably a dutch oven) heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. add the onions, salt, and pepper (to taste) and stir until the onions are glassy (but not browned). at the same time, heat the chicken stock and saffron in a second pot over low heat until just warmed through. the stock will change color from the saffron.
once the onions are glassy add the rice and stir until it is all coated in the oil and onions. continue cooking for about two minutes (this will give the rice a nice nutty flavor). add the tomatoes, chorizo, paprika (to taste, but about two teaspoons), and stock. stir through and bring to a boil. once the stock is boiling stir through once more and then add the shrimp to the top, cover, and put in the oven.
cook for 25 minutes, remove from the oven, and stir. check to see if the rice is done. if it’s too dry, add some more stock. return to the oven in 5 minute increments—adding more stock as needed—if the rice isn’t cooked, otherwise, remove from oven and serve.
*i was running low on arborio rice and had to use 1 cup of japanese sushi rice to supplement, it worked really well. just don’t use long grain rice here, it needs to be short and fat. heh.
notes: i didn’t have any shrimp when i made this, so they aren’t pictured above, but they really do “make” this dish. i use the san marzano tomatoes because they are the best, and i put them in whole along with their juices from the can. the cooking process breaks them down, so don’t expend any energy doing that with a wooden spoon or your hands. also, fritz really enjoyed this and he’s only ten months old (not the chorizo part, just the rice part), so it’s totally kid friendly. the sausage would still be too spicy for most kids, but the shrimp would probably be more appealing to them.