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Follow my family recipe and learn how to make the best paella
The best paellas in Spain are made over a fire. Learning to control the fire is a skill I have been perfecting since I was a boy when my father gave me the job to watch the flames as he cooked paella for our neighbors and friends.
I have a fire pit in my backyard, but for many, and especially for those learning to make paella, a gas ring will be the best way to cook your paella. You can find them online and in some specialty shops, or you can use a gas grill or a stove top burner. But don’t try to make paella on an electric range, it won’t give you enough heat to cook and flavor the rice.
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In Valencia, where paella is made over fire, usually in large pans to feed family and friends, they use water to cook the rice, not stock. The combination of the fire, the chicken and rabbit pieces on the bone, and a longer cooking time, allows the water to turn into a rich stock right in the pan. For this recipe, I recommend you use a chicken stock to help give you some of the deep flavor that the fire gives to the dish. (Learn more about the history and efforts to define “real” paella Valenciana in my post from earlier this week!)
Be sure to watch your paella pan as it cooks, and look for where the stock is bubbling more vigorously, you may need to rotate your pan to distribute the heat and allow it to cook evenly. But do not stir the rice! Be patient. You will be astonished.
My tips: You can usually find romano beans—the broad, flat snap beans sometimes known as Italian pole beans—in farmers markets in the summer. You could use green beans if they are not available. The garrofó beans used in Spain are similar to butter beans or large lima beans. These creamy beans soak up all the flavors of the paella. (Though it’s not entirely traditional, I sometimes add artichokes to this paella when they are in season.)
To perfect your paella, be sure to use Spanish bomba rice. You can now find it in stores across America or online.
My team has put together many of the things you need to make paella, from the pans to bomba rice, at our Mercado Little Spain online store. You can find it here.
2 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken thighs (bone-in), cut into small pieces
2 rabbit legs, cut into small pieces
1 cup romano beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
¾ cup garrafó beans, or peeled fresh fava beans
1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 pinch saffron
4 cups chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup Spanish bomba rice
In a 13- or 15-inch paella pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high until it is hot but not smoking. Add the chicken and rabbit pieces. Sear the meats on all sides until well-browned, about 8 minutes, then season with salt. Move the meat pieces to the outer edges of the paella pan, creating a circle in the center.
Add the romano and lima beans in the center of the pan and season with salt. Cook the beans until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, then push the beans to the outer edges of the paella pan with the meats.
Pour the crushed tomato puree into the center of the pan and let it cook, stirring occasionally until it reduces by half and begins to turn a deep red color, about 5 minutes.
Stir the meat and vegetables into the tomato and continue to cook for about 3 minutes more to continue to caramelize the tomato sauce.
Crumble the saffron into the pan and add the stock. Season with salt and add the rosemary.
Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then let it boil for 2-3 minutes.
Remove the rosemary and add the rice, taking care to spread it evenly around the pan and mixed with the meat and vegetables. Cook for 8 minutes on high flame, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. You should see the rice floating around the pan as the stock boils.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and do a final stir of the rice to make sure the meats and vegetables are evenly distributed across the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, and do not stir as the liquid cooks down. You want the rice to be slightly al dente, with a nice firm center. When you have 2 minutes left, there should be little liquid left in the pan, increase the heat to high to get the crunchy soccarat, the caramelized crust at the bottom of the pan. When the rice is done, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.