EDISON, NJ - I love paella of all sorts and certainly love the traditional version with various seafood types steeped in a seafood broth scented with saffron and chorizo along with a group of vegetables collectively known as a sofrito. Here, instead of seafood, I used organic chicken thighs and chicken stock. Together with a sofrito that was spiced with a spicy pimenton (or Spanish smoked paprika), this dish came together rather well and was generally easier to pull off without a trip to a meat market to purchase the various seafood products (not to mention more economical). I used a short grain rice, like arborio or risotto rice, as it cooks quickly and soaks up lots liquid!
You can scale this up and down depending on how many people you are serving. You can also certainly use a whole leg here instead of just the thighs. However, I would stick with the thigh or the whole leg and avoid the chicken breast as it will dry out during the prolonged cooking time.
8 Organic chicken thighs
2 Quarts chicken stock
1 ½ Cups Arborio rice
1 Small can whole peeled tomatoes
1 Large yellow onion, chopped finely
2 Bell Pepper (preferably two colors), chopped finely
5 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Carrot, chopped finely
4 Tablespoons hot Pimenton
Olive oil as needed
Kosher salt and red pepper flakes
1 Cup loosely packed Italian parsley flakes
Sherry Vinegar for drizzling
· Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place your two quarts of chicken stock on a back burner over medium low heat to warm it through.
· Gather all the vegetables and chop as directed. Set vegetables aside.
· Pat the chicken thighs dry and season with kosher salt and red pepper flakes.
· Heat a very large cast iron pan (or paella pan) over medium high heat for about five minutes. In the meantime, gather the remaining ingredients as the cooking process will go rather quickly from here.
· Once the pan is heated, add enough olive oil in the pan to coat it and then add the chicken thighs, skin side down. Cook thighs until well browned, then flip and cook the other side until equally browned. This could take upwards of 15-30 minutes depending on the heat of your pan, etc.
· Once the chicken thighs are cooked, remove them from the pan and place on plate and set aside. Add a bit more olive oil to the pan and then add all the vegetables except the garlic.
· Add the pimenton to the vegetables. Add a pinch of kosher salt to the pan.
· Cook vegetables until well cooked and slightly golden, about 8 minutes or so. Add the garlic to the pan and cook another minute.
· Add the chopped tomatoes.
· Add the rice and stir to incorporate. Cook another minute or so.
· Slowly add the chicken stock, a cup at a time until the mixture is submerged. I used about 1.5 quarts. Bring mixture to a boil.
· Add the chicken thighs back into the pan. Turn off heat and place entire pan into the preheated oven.
· Cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes or so. Midway through, check the liquid level and add a bit more liquid if you think necessary to finish up the cooking.
· Once the rice has absorbed the majority of the liquid, turn the broiler on and cook another 3-5 minutes, until the skin of the chicken crisps.
· Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
· Coarsely chop the Italian parsley and add to the pan. Drizzle a bit of sherry vinegar and good quality olive oil over the top to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit your individual tastes.
Serve while hot with a salad.
Craig Thiebaud is a Diplomat of Classic Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center (formerly The French Culinary Institute) located in SOHO in New York City. After extensive training in the Art of French cooking and professional food preparation in general, he brings his knowledge of food and passion for cooking to us by sharing culinary techniques and creating recipes that mainly use local, seasonal ingredients and can be easily recreated in the home kitchen. Good, wholesome meals for the family can be created quickly with planning, using the best techniques with the best ingredients that are both affordable and available. Let's get back into the kitchen together!