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The Work of Paella

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I have been wanting to try my hand at Paella for quite some time now, and I thought this Sunday’s Oscar Viewing Gathering would be the perfect opportunity. I ordered a Paella pan off Amazon last week, and it arrive just in time for the weekend. After some thought and consulting with my mother on her Paella recipe, I decided to try the more “simple” recipe that Gerard Nebesky used to beat Bobby Flay in the Paella Smack Down (the famous dish that GGD, KD and I sampled a few weeks ago at the Tank18 opening).


In actuality (and not surprisingly) the dish was so simple that I had a hard time deciphering some of Nebesky’s instructions. I often find this is the case when professional chefs are attempting to explain a dish to home cooks; they forget that some of us need a little more guidance with timing. That being said, my Paella was more of a work in progress than a work of art, but I certainly plan to work on adjusting and perfecting my own recipe now that I have my pan.

Seafood Paella with Chicken and Chorizo

serves 8-10, prep time: 20 minutes, cook time: 2 hours

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 heads of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
  • 1 jar of Piquillo peppers, drained and chopped into smaller pieces
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts with bone in, quartered
    Please ignore the cluttered countertop and the remaining evidence of my oral surgery (applesauce).

    Please ignore the cluttered countertop and the remaining evidence of my oral surgery (applesauce).

  • 3 skinless chicken thighs with bone in, halved
  • 2 chorizo sausages, sliced into smaller pieces
  • 3 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 16oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 7-8 cups of low sodium chicken stock
  • 20 saffron threads
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 4 cups Arborio rice (short grain rice), uncooked
  • 2 16oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 lb of green beans, ends trimmed
  • 15 jumbo shrimp or tiger prawns
  • 1 cup of bay scallops (the small kind)
  • 12 mussels and 12 clams, tightly closed with no shell damage (keep cold until use so they stay alive)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
  • salt and paprika to taste

After prepping all your vegetables, meat and seasoning, heat the paella pan over a medium-high flame. I have an 18-inch pan so I set it over the front and back burner of my stove. My pan started to brown a little when heated, perhaps because it was the first time I used it, or maybe the flame was too direct, or maybe because there was nothing in it yet. Either way, it went away once I added some ingredients.

peppers and garlic

Heat the olive oil in the pan for about a minute, then add the garlic cloves and Piquillo peppers and saute for about 10 minutes. Remove the peppers and set aside (leave the garlic). Add the chicken pieces to the pan, browning on all sides for 5 minutes each. Once golden, move the chicken to the outer part of the pan and add the onions and chorizo to the center, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until onions are translucent and chorizo is mostly cooked.

photo 1

Add the diced tomato and 6 cups of chicken broth and stir to combine ingredients. Crush the saffron with the 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika with the back of a metal spoon. Add to the stock and reduce over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes is up add the rice, pushing some of it to the bottom of the pan so it can crisp during the cooking process. Add the chickpeas, green beans and Piquillo peppers on top of the rice, and cook for 20 minutes without stirring. After 20 minutes the broth will be mostly reduced. If the rice on the top needs further cooking, add in more broth by the 1/2 cup, but do not overdo it. Preheat the oven to 300 (assuming your Paella pan fits in your oven).

Once the rice on top is mostly cooked and the majority of the broth has been reduced, add the shrimp and scallops to the pan, tucking them into the other ingredients. Move the pan to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and done and all of the broth has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the oven and keep warm on the stove top over a low heat.

While the pan is in the oven, heat a smaller skillet with about 3/4 cup  of chicken broth. Add garlic salt and Italian seasoning and bring to a boil. Toss in the clams and mussels and cook over a medium-high heat until the shells open up (about 8 minutes). If the shells don’t begin to open after 10 minutes, discard them as they are probably dead. Add the clams and mussels to the Paella pan, and top with the remaining broth that the shellfish were cooked in. I must give credit to KD for helping out with this portion of the Paella, as it was her idea and it added a lot of delicious seafood flavor to the dish.


Finish off the Paella with sprinkles of salt and additional smoked paprika (if you like it spicy!), with quartered lemons garnishing the outside of the dish. The blend of colors and shapes in the dish looks quite beautiful, and is worth all the work.

To soothe my stress level over the timing of the dish (and to cool me down), I sipped on Rosa d’Oro Rosato from Lake County while I was cooking the Paella. During dinner I served Tank18’s 2010 El Dorado Tempranillo, which was a familiar and successful pairing – and within budget. Tempranillo is a great varietal to serve with Paella not only because it’s traditionally a Spanish grape, but also because the wine is lighter in style with a good balance of spice. Some of my favorite Tempranillo from California comes from Gundlach Bundschu and Jarvis – if you don’t mind splurging. Otherwise you can find some good Spanish Tempranillo at BevMo or Trader Joe’s for under $15.


One thing I really enjoyed that I never would have thought of was the addition of chickpeas into the dish – thanks, Gerard! His dish also calls for mussels OR clams, but I chose to use both since some people (ahem, KD) don’t like mussels. I’m glad I added the bay scallops to the dish because they were very tasty, but I would have cooked them for less time because they are so small that they barely need any cook time. I’m also glad I used Tiger Prawns instead of jumbo shrimp because they were cheaper (fresh from Costco) and headless, which I understand is authentic but some people are turned off by it. Lastly, I was a little confused by the direction of keeping the skins on the garlic, but in the end I think it helped keep them more intact and I was delighted when a garlic clove would sneak onto my spoonful. But be sure to brush your teeth after this dish if you’re on a date!

I hope to improve the execution of this dish as I continue to make it, and I am excited to try other versions of Paella, including my mother’s (which is adapted from this recipe with her comments on Page 7 – from “a cook from Rye, NY”). And to think, I said her recipe looked too complicated – at least it was more clearly written out. I hope that my version of Gerard’s recipe can help other home cooks like me!

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a food and wine lover residing in Napa, California, where she does marketing for a boutique wine collective. She previously lived in San Francisco for over six years, where her blogging journey began. She loves to cook seasonal meals and experiment with new wine pairings. She has been drinking and learning about wine with her father since she was 14, and cooking in the kitchen with her mother since she was 6. Both of her parents taught her well about seasoning and flavors, and she continues to learn more with every meal that is made.

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