Classic Chicken Paella with a Kansas Twist

I had the opportunity towards the end of last year to detour my good friend and fellow food writer Yosef Silver (aka. This American Bite) from a business trip for a night of cooking at my house. Yosef and I sweated blood and tears (mainly tears… oh that brisket), over the summer at the sanctioned Kosher BBQ Festival. Spending almost 24 hours, bleary eyed and sleep deprived in front of smoker, staring at slabs of meat with a flashlight, cemented our friendship. I also had the honor of spending a week with his family  in Kansas and took part in their amazing Fed, White and Blue Shabbat with Simon Majumdar. Needless to say, I owed him… a lot of food.

Yosef was a paella virgin when he showed up on that cold November night. I had a new paella pan and a foodie friend that needed breaking in. By the time he left the next day, he was a seasoned veteran in the art of Spanish rice (and maybe a pound or two heavier- payback for Kansas).

Every culture seems to have their own riff on a rice dish. Spain lays claim to the Paella, Italy has Risotto, Nicaragua has Gallopinto and the list goes on… Like all of those dishes, they can be as simple or as complex as you want. Vegetables and protein can be interchanged and creativity will determine the outcome. For Paella, the staple ingredients I think of are the Smoked Paprika and saffron. The recipe below is what I consider a classic paella and the garlic aoili served with it helps cool the palette from the slow burn of the paprika. Serve with a cold Pinot Grigio or Sav Blanc.

The Goods:

  • 2 cups of bomba spanish rice (you can substitute arborio rice)
  • 6 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic diced
  • 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes
  • A small pinch of saffron
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • 2 chicken legs with attached thigh
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • Chopped parsley and lemon for garnish
  • Garlic aioli for finish

The Steps:

  1. Heat olive oil and paella pan on a medium heat.  Season chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Brown the chicken on both sides 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  2. Add garlic and onions to the pan. Push chicken to the side and sauteed vegetables until soft.  Add the rice and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 can of tomatoes and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add wine to the pan scrape up the brown bits and deglaze.
  3. Cook till the wine has reduced to by half.
  4. Add smoked paprika and saffron.
  5. Add half of the chicken stock and shake the pan once or twice (after this, no stirring or shaking!).
  6. Once the stock has almost been absorbed, add the remaining chicken stock. Cook for additional 10 to 15 minutes on the stove top until liquid has been almost been absorbed. Check rice for doneness. You want a crunchy bottom layer, so allow time for that rice to carmelize. The crunch provides a nice contrast.

A great time lapse video of our project taken by Yosef.

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