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There’s this really fantastic Spanish tapas restaurant that we love. We had been going for awhile and almost exclusively ordered the tapas because they are just so. damn. good. We were chatting with the owner and asked what was the best thing on the menu, in his opinion. He didn’t hesitate, he immediately said the paella. So of course we ordered it and it was delicious. It arrived in a large, warm baking dish and was enough to feed our entire table with plenty of leftovers.
I love to try to replicate my favorite dishes from local restaurants and put my own spin on them. I expected the paella would be a challenge, and while I changed it quite a bit from the restaurant’s version, my goal was to make it allllllmost as good as theirs. I was shocked when my husband claimed it was even better than the restaurant version and it earned the coveted position of being his new all-time favorite dish.
There are so many different versions of paella, but basically paella is a Spanish stew consisting of vegetables, rice, meat (chicken, rabbit or seafood) and olive oil. The restaurant version was more of a traditional Valencian paella with mussels, chicken, saffron rice, peas and chorizo. My version is similar to that, but is admittedly a little more basic and focused on enhancing the flavors of the seafood.
- lemon infused olive oil*
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups short grain white or saffron rice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 punch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 2 lemons, zested
- 1 Spanish onion, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 pound chorizo sausage
- 1 pound shrimp, cooked, thawed, peeled and deveined
Whew! You got all that? Let’s do this.
1) In a medium-size mixing bowl, mix 2 tablespoons lemon olive oil, smoked paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the chopped Spanish onion. Stir in the cut chicken pieces to coat. Cover and pop it in the fridge.
I love this goofy chopper. It chops perfectly and the measuring marks on the side are super handy. Love it.
3) In a large dutch oven or pot (this is the one I used), heat two tablespoons lemon olive oil, red pepper flakes and garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant, stir in the bay leaf, parsley, chicken stock and lemon zest. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium low and add the browned chorizo. Cover and simmer.
6) While the paella is simmering, prepare the rice per package directions.
7) After simmering, add the rice to the dutch oven.
8) Serve and enjoy!
If you have a small family like mine, you’ll need to either invite the in-laws over or prepare your fridge for leftovers. Or both. Also, since this takes awhile to prepare, I like to serve it with a little mango salsa and chips so people can snack while the paella is simmering and enticing them.
It’s seriously delicious! Quite easy to make too. The ingredients can get a little pricey, but it’s a large dish so it averages out to be around $4/person or $8/hungry husband.
* About that lemon infused olive oil. This is essential to the dish and now a non-negotiable staple in this house. I love this local shop that sells high quality, gourmet olive oils. Apparently, most of the oils you buy in grocery stores (especially the cheap ones) that claim to be extra virgin olive oil are NOT. Some companies have even sold lamp oil as olive oil. Plus, when you try a high quality olive oil, you can taste the difference. You really can!
So, here’s my cautionary tale. When it comes to olive oils, you get what you pay for. Wow, you found a gallon of EVOO for $5.99?! It’s garbage. But the high quality stuff is expensive, about $20 for a relatively small bottle. I ran out of the good lemon infused olive oil I used the first time I made this paella and was too cheap to buy more. So I used regular olive oil the second time I invited my in-laws over and the whole time I’m making it, I’m thinking, ‘It’s not going to be as good. It’s not going to be as good…’ After dinner, I asked my husband (who RAVED about the paella the first time I made it and is always really honest about my cooking) how it was and he said it was great. I asked him if it was as good as the first time and he said, “Honestly, no.” He said the first one tasted more lemon-y.
Lesson learned. GET THE LEMON INFUSED OLIVE OIL. I use it all the time on seafood, chicken, etc. and it is seriously delicious and absolutely worth it. If you don’t live locally, you can still order it online from the shop I linked, there’s some good ones on Amazon or you can even make your own.
After you make this, please let me know how you and your families liked it! It’s a perfect dinner for an at-home date night this weekend.