Updated: Apr 15, 2020
As soon as we pass the last frost in April I get requests for paella from family, friends and neighbors. The dish is quite spectacular no matter what ingredients I add. Yes, many in Spain would raise their finger at me and lecture me on how one cannot mix seafood and meats in a paella. But alas, I have never been one to follow rules that muffle my creativity.
This year it seems our winter didn't set it's alarm clock and slept right through. The weather has been mild which means that my first paella request came rather early. And heck, throw in a Covid 19 lockdown, my husband convinced me it would be a wise dish to make since the volume of leftovers would feed our family of four for a week.
However getting the "traditional ingredients" was a bit tough given the lockdown. So I had to ramp up my creativity and tap into my inner culinary goddess for inspiration. I was out of saffron, which again, the finger waiving Spaniards would deem as absolutely essential. I decided to be a maverick and skip the saffron and add squid ink. Why? Because I happen to have 4 sachets of the stuff in my freezer. My grocery store was out of pretty much any packs of chicken thighs or breasts, so I grabbed the leftover roast chicken from the other night instead.
I must say, if I were a betting woman, I would bet that back in the day a Spaniard woman would have thrown ingredients she happen to have on hand to make her paella. If she didn't have the ritual and approved ingredients, she would improvise. And that's just what I did.
Below are the ingredients I used. But you can absolutely substitute. No chorizo? Try Italian sausage. No octopus? Grab some frozen calamari. Can't find Bomba Rice? No problem, use Arborio. Forgot to make seafood or fish broth? Buy some chicken bone broth. Does squid ink make you cringe? Well, do without it and see how it goes. Or get some saffron for color.
3 garlic cloves sliced
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 sachets squid ink
1 cup olive oil
1 onion sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper sliced thinly
1 cup or can of chopped artichoke hearts (you can use frozen ones, but please thaw them)
1 link of chorizo (preferably the dry cured one)
1 pack of chicken thighs (or do what I did and use leftover cooked chicken)
1 pound cleaned shrimp, shells and poop tube removed
1 2-pound of cooked octopus tentacles (or calamari/squid)
1/2 pound muscles (I use just the meat, but if you want to be fancy, keep them in the shells)
5+ cups warm fish or seafood broth (again, you can use chicken broth)
2.5 cups Bomba Rice (or Arborio)
1 very large tomato chopped into rough pieces
A bunch of parsley chopped up
Salt and Pepper
1. In a mortar and pestle grind up the garlic and salt until the garlic becomes a paste. Then add your squid ink and mix. Set aside.
2. Heat up olive oil in large shallow pan on medium heat (if you can, get yourself a paella pan, they are worth it).
3. Add chicken, squid (if raw) and chorizo. Cook until browned on all sides and squid is coiled. Remove from pan and set aside. In the same, now empty pan, add onions, bell pepper and artichoke hearts. Cook until veggies are soft.
4. Add back chicken, chorizo and squid.
5. Pour the rice so it is evenly distributed throughout the pan.
6. Ladle a bit of broth into the pestle and mortar to loosen your garlic paste mixture and pour it into the pan. Using a wooden spoon, mix everything together
7. Add shrimp and muscles (even if in shells).
8. Add 4 cups of broth so that the rice is barely covered with broth. Then sprinkle on your shrimp.
9. And now you must wait for the rice to cook. They say you cannot touch let alone mix the ingredients during this time. You must have faith that the rice will cook evenly and that you will get that gorgeous crunchy crust on the bottom. HOWEVER, though I am a woman of faith, biting into raw rice is not my thang. So, I do make it a habit of tasting the rice here and there and where I feel it needs more time, I add a bit more broth.
*** For a soup to nuts video of my entire paella ritual, please go to my HOW TO page and watch the video ***