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Ultimate Oven Paella

(FOR A 14- TO 16-INCH PAN)

Paella is a series of steps pulled together with a bit of advance work. When guests come, just turn on the oven, compose the dish and allow it to bake until the rice is cooked. We do all of the advance cooking in our large black iron skillet rather than in the paella pan because it's familiar and reliable and fits the burner better on the stovetop. We assemble and bake off the dish in the paella pan. Here's the step-by-step method for beginners.

24 small clams in the shell
12 mussels in the shell
1 1/4 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells re- served
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron (good pinch of strands)
1/2 pound chorizo sausage
6 to 8 chicken drumsticks (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pep- per
1/3 cup olive oil, about
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 red pepper, chopped fine
1 yellow pepper, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon paprika, smoked Spanish pimenton prefer- ably
1 cup cherry tomatoes, poked with a knife
1 cup frozen lima beans or peas, defrosted
2 1/2 cups Spanish short-grain rice, bomba preferred
Lemon wedges
Alioli (garlic mayonnaise), recipe follows

Advance preparation: Discard any clams that do not close when tapped. Scrub keepers under running water. Discard any mussels that do not close when tapped. Scrub others under running water. Place both in a bowl and refrigerate. Clean shrimp (reserve shells), remove black vein and refrigerate.

To enhance the flavor of the broth, place reserved shrimp shells in a saute pan with a little olive oil. Heat and cook until they turn red. Add chicken broth to cover and let it simmer quietly for about 5 minutes. Strain the broth into a glass measure. Discard the shells.

Crush the saffron between 2 spoons or with the fingers. Place the crushed saffron along with a few strands of whole saffron into the strained hot broth to steep. Add enough additional chicken broth to make 5 cups. Place 1 cup additional plain broth to the side. You may or may not need some of it.

Cut chorizo into 4-inch lengths and simmer in water for 15 minutes. Cool and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Refrigerate.

Rinse the chicken pieces, if using, and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a heavy skillet or paella pan on high heat, add enough olive oil to film the pan. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, about 15 minutes. The chicken should be barely over halfway done. Transfer chicken to a plate and refrigerate.

Add the chopped onions and peppers to the oil remaining in the pan and saute over medium-low heat until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika and cook another 2 minutes, but do not let the garlic brown. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook 2 minutes longer. Set the vegetables (this is called the sofrito) aside to cool.

Finish the dish: About 35 minutes before serving, place an oven rack on the lowest position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Get all refrigerated ingredients out so that they warm a bit. Place drumsticks, if using, in a shallow baking dish and bake on the top oven shelf.

Place the sofrito in a 16-inch paella pan, spreading it out. Scatter the lima beans or peas over the vegetable mixture.

Distribute the rice over the vegetables and stir to coat.

Bring 5 cups broth to the boil. Pour it over the rice and vegetables. Bring to a boil on top of the stove, lower the heat and simmer without stirring for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Add sausage slices, pushing them into the rice. Add shrimp. Add clams and mussels, hinge side down.

Carefully place the paella in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. Check the dish. If the rice seems too dry, add about 1/3 cup of the reserved 1 cup broth. Do not stir the rice. When done, the shellfish will be open and the rice should have a bit of a bite.

Remove the paella and chicken legs, if using, from the oven. Cover with a tent of aluminum foil and allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes. As it stands, the remaining liquid will be absorbed and the rice will become tender.

Place the paella directly onto the center of the table and allow guests to help themselves. Pass chicken legs. Pass lemon wedges and garlic mayonnaise. Serves 6.

Marlene Parrish


1 egg (see note)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 cup lightly flavored extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Break egg into blender container. Add mustard, salt and vinegar. Add 1/4 cup of the oil. Cover and turn motor on low speed.

Immediately uncover, and pour in remaining oil in a fine, steady stream. Do not hurry. When all of the oil has been incorporated, toss in the chopped garlic; stir to combine. Continue to blend for 1 minute until silky.

Allow the mayonnaise to rest in the fridge for at least an hour before using so the flavors will mellow and soften. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Note: Use a pasteurized egg if you will be serving dish to the very young, very old or people with compromised immune systems.

Thursday, August 30, 2001

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