Paella, the rice-based Spanish dish, is one of the most internationally known recipes. It is also very versatile, allowing many variations as long as two main ingredients are consistently present: Rice and Saffron.

I still remember an invitation to a paella cookout in California many years ago. Our hosts had prepared an outside burner, the typical paella cooking pan and a large array of “yummy” ingredients to add. When they started cooking they pulled out a container of “yellow # 5” food colorant and added it to the pan. My husband and I instantly looked at each other and said: “ It is not paella”. I will leave up to you to consider the importance of real saffron when preparing a good, real paella. Saffron adds the typical yellow color to the rice, but it also adds its characteristic flavor.

Other than that, this dish can really take many ingredients. Even the rice can be of any kind. Here in Texas I buy the medium or long grain HEB brand and it makes a fine paella.

The J. family is moving to Hawaii;  Mr. J. wants a recipe to prepare paella on the beach for his friends and family. Therefore I am going to give you my personal, family paella dish the way I have been preparing it for years. I always follow the same steps and, although I have never made paella on the beach, I do prepare it for friends as a home party and I do prefer having some steps ready and made in advance. I am going to explain my steps as I follow them when I make my own paella. I will describe what you need to prepare at home and how to bring it to your party; at the end you only have to mix it all and the results are going to be exceptional, I promise.

I also want to take this opportunity to send our regards and best wishes to all our patients and parents who are members of the Armed Forces.

Ingredients/utensils you may need to research and find in advance:

You are going to need a paella dish. It is a shallow, metal or clay dish which you will use to cook the paella.

The other two ingredients to look for in advance are Spanish paprika, called “pimenton” and saffron.  You can find both a www.latienda.com

Most paella dishes contain some kind of meat. I use chicken because everybody likes it, but you can add beef or Spanish chorizo, or a combination of both.

The ingredients and the preparation will list the chicken recipe first, as it must be cooked in advance before adding it to the paella. Chorizo can be added directly; simply cut into pieces.

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

–         1lb of small chicken wing drumsticks

–         ½ onion

–         1/3 of green pepper

–         2 garlic cloves

–         ¼ cup of white cooking wine

–         2 tsp of Spanish paprika (pimenton)

–         3 tbsp of olive oil

For the Paella:

–         2 cups of white rice

–         5 cups of water

–         1 medium onion

–         ½ green pepper

–         2 garlic cloves

–         1 carrot

–         1 lb of large shrimp, uncooked

–         ½ lb of scallops

–         18 little neck clams

–         3 squid fillets

–         2 envelopes of saffron (or two teaspoons of powder saffron)

–         2 Knorr chicken bouillons

–         ½ cup of olive oil

–         Salt

What to prepare at home:  You can make the chicken in advance as follows:

In a medium saucepan add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and heat for a few minutes. Add the minced onions, garlic and green pepper and allow cooking for about ten minutes. Add the chicken drumlets and cover.  Pour in ¼ cup of cooking white wine, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 tablespoons of water and 2 teaspoons of Spanish paprika (pimenton) and allow cooking for an additional 10 minutes.

Allow the chicken to cool off, place in a container and refrigerate until ready to take to the beach.

–          Make another container with fish: clean and peal the shrimp (optional); rinse the scallops and cut the squid fillets in medium pieces. Add a few spoons of water and place the container in the refrigerator until ready to take to the beach.

–          The clams are going to be pre-treated before we add them to the paella. Clams may contain sand inside and I advise to rinse them and then place them in boiling water for just a few seconds until they open. As they start to open up, spoon them out of the water and place them in a container with a few spoonfuls of the cooking water and reserve in the refrigerator until ready to go to the beach.

–          The water used to boil the clams is NOT to be discarded. It contains flavor from the clams and will be used later, when we cook the rice. You can strain it through a cloth (like a cloth napkin) and keep refrigerated until needed. Later when I indicate to boil 5 cups of water to make the rice; you can use the clam’s water as part of it.

–          Cut up the onion, bell pepper, garlic and carrot in small pieces and reserve. Keep in a container and refrigerate.

Preparation (at the beach):

Start by bringing 5 cups of water to boil. Part of that water can be the water you saved when you boiled the clams. If it is not enough, just add more fresh water to make a total of 5 cups.  Add the 2 knorr chicken bouillons and the saffron to the water and bring it all to boil.

While the water is heating, place the paella dish on the fire and add ½ cup of olive oil. When the oil is warm, pour in the cut vegetables you have prepared at home, stirring occasionally and cooking until the onions are transparent.

Add the cooked chicken you have prepared, with all its sauce and vegetables. Stir in as it starts to warm up. Then add the raw fish (the mixture of shimp, scallops and squid) and stir frequently while it cooks.

At this point you will smell the fish and the juices from the chicken and vegetables combining and people will start to gather around you.

After about 10 minutes, and while still maintaining a medium heat, pour in the rice. Stir it around until all the grains are wet with the juices from the other ingredients, just a couple of minutes. Then you add the near-boiling water (with the saffron and chicken bouillons melted in). Stir all the ingredients together for 5 minutes; reduce heat where the paella is now cooking at an even, low heat. At this point you may want to add salt to taste and insert the clams throughout the paella. Continue cooking until all the water is absorbed and the rice is soft, about 20 minutes.

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.