When Life Gives You Chorizo, You Gotta Make Paella
Well that was fast, wasn’t it? I’m talking about this spring and summer. I just don’t know where they went, yet here we are, rolling through back-to-school department store commercials and bus stop weather forecasts from the local weather prognosticators.
It seems to have happened rather quickly this this go-around though. Our outdoor gardens are showing more fall-like activity and fewer color bursts, and I can’t help but think that soon enough, the tree frogs and cicadas will start their chorus, forecasting shorter days and cooler nights. Lordy, that’s a bit of a depressing reality for those of us that prefer our outdoor selves over our indoor selves.
Luckily, that thought got pushed right out of my head with the arrival of a little box marked perishable, dropped on my doorstep with a little pig on the outside of the box, just smiling and looking up at me.
Indeed, that little pig was foretelling of an enclosed styrofoam travel cooler containing chorizo links, and the first thing that popped into my head was Paella. So once a date was picked that was convenient for the whole family, including the gifting daughter, the menu was set. Wood-fired paella, as it was meant to be prepared.
As is the case with many recipes, it’s generally a good idea to get all the ingredients that you need prepared and at arm’s length before beginning. This will be a direct cook over hardwood lump charcoal to capture that subtle smoky goodness and build up the socarrat, that crispy, caramelized layer of rice on the bottom of the paella. While the fire is getting ready, ingredients were weighed, measured, and brought together, including chicken thighs, large shrimp with shells on, chorizo, olive oil, onion, garlic, paprika, diced tomatoes, white wine, chicken broth, Valencia rice, thawed peas, parsley and that precious little pinch of saffron. Almost exhausting, isn’t it? Take a breath, and
Because my chicken thighs were huuuge, I put them on the grill in an indirect sort of way to precook – just about halfway – so as to avoid any embarrassing raw chicken issues later. But I’m thinkin’ that the birds these thighs were attached to were some corn chewin’, ground thumping yardbirds that were never gonna sneak up on anyone.
The saffron threads are in that little aluminum foil packet, getting heated and a little toasty in the paella pan over the direct fire. About fifteen seconds on each side is enough. No, I don’t know if this changes anything, but it sounds more mysterious than just tossing in saffron that’s been soaked in a couple of tablespoons of warm water. But that would work too.
After removing the packet, toss in the olive oil, onions, and garlic and top with the chopped chorizo and the previously mentioned half-done chicken thighs.
When you notice the chorizo releasing its juices and the chicken skin beginning to brown, the onions and garlic are likely getting tender, so go ahead and remove the hulky chicken thighs and place them back over to the side and add in the smoked paprika
Sir this up for a few minutes until well combined and all pretty looking with deep rich color and aroma.
Add the chicken stock, the dry white wine and Valencia rice. Give it a preliminary stir to get everything mixed well over high heat.
Let this boil for two minutes or so, but DO NOT stir anymore! Resist the temptation to stir it up. This is when that crusty layer is forming on the bottom and any agitation from your jittery stir crazy hand will leave you with a pan of plain old rice. Oh it’ll still taste wonderful, but you’ll be missing a key texture. This is key, I tell ya, key!
When you get to a point where it looks like most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is starting to show through the sauce, start building the paella by nestling the chicken into the rice and tucking the shrimp into any unoccupied spaces. Lay the pepper strips on top in any pattern that strikes your fancy. I went with the non-imaginative, three-stripe, trying-to-stay-even pattern. But I do think my chicken and shrimp layout was pretty good, so I’m pretty ok with
After 4 to 6 minutes, the shrimp should be near done, so you can top with the brilliant green peas for great color contrast. Let this beauty continue cooking on the grill for another couple of minutes, then remove and place it center stage on the serving table.
Hand out forks and spoons, and commence to digging into this delicious, flavorful, aromatic dish made for sharing. Pour a glass of sangria, enjoy the company around you, count your blessings, and cherish every moment that loved ones can all be together for a great meal and conversation.
Because life Is Better Wood-Fired
- Paella Pan, Hardwood open fire, A group of family or friends to help enjoy the meal.
- 6 pcs Chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
- 12 oz Chorizo, cut in chunks
- 1-2 lbs Shrimp, 16/20 size
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lg yellow onion
- 3 cloves fresh garlic
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 12 oz diced tomatoes
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups Valencia or other short grain rice
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 pinch saffron
- to taste kosher salt and freh cracked black pepper