This version of paella has been known to outrage Spanish purists. Not because of the ingredients but because of how it is cooked. However, we are simply updating the traditional paella which is cooked on an outdoor fire. That fire, according to paella purists, should consist only of vine cuttings. Except in the area of Valencia, where the fire is made from the prunings of orange trees. They have a lot of orange trees in Valencia.
For the moment, we will leave the purists with their vineyard and orchard trimmings and turn to our trusty backyard charcoal grill. After all, most of us do not have access to vineyards or orange groves.
Here’s how it works:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 pound tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads moistened in 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds meaty chicken pieces, cut into chunks; use dark meat for more flavor.
1/4 pound Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
1/2 pound cleaned squid tubes sliced into rings
4 cups flavorful chicken stock or fish stock
2 cups short grain paella or risotto style rice
16 cleaned mussels, in shells
16 cleaned clams, in shells
1 pound prawns, in shells
1 cup fresh peas or 1 pound asparagus tips
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Note: Paella pans come in all sizes. I have seen paella pans so large the cook had to use boat oars to stir. This recipe serves eight from a 15-inch pan.
Light the coals in a Weber-type grill. When the coals are white hot, heap them in the center. Place the paella pan on the grill above the coals and pour in the oil. When hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until limp. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until dry. Stir in the saffron. Push the vegetables to the side of the pan. Add the prawns, sprinkle with salt and remove after a minute. Set aside.
Add the chicken and chorizo and sprinkle with salt.
Cook, turning the pieces over until the chicken begins to color, about 7 minutes. Add the squid and rice and stir all together with the sofrito ( the saffron-tomato mixture) .
Pour in the stock which has been lightly salted. Salting at each turn will bring out all the flavors but you don’t want to over-salt.
At this time you may need to stoke the fire with a few sticks of wood to bring the stock to a boil. (This is when those vine cuttings would come in handy.). Cook at a boil for about 10 minutes. Put the lid on the Weber and cook for another 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and arrange the prawns over the top of the paella; place the mussels and clams, hinge sides down, around the edge. If you wish, add the peas or asparagus now. Cook another five minutes, close the cover of the grill and cook for five minutes more.
To serve, remove the paella to the table and cover with a clean cloth for about five minutes, then decorate with lemon wedges. Garnish each serving of the paella with a lemon wedge, which should be squeezed over the paella before serving.