I used to think that paella was only something that could be prepared for me at a restaurant by an expert- ideally a Spaniard with a giant pan and zillion hard to find ingredients. For this reason, I was always hesitant to try out paella in my own kitchen. Would I get the rice right... would the proteins all be cooked through... would the flavor be on or off... do I need one of those special pans... should I learn to speak Catalan?!?! The further I delved into paella recipes, the more I realized how fuss-free this classic Spanish dish can be! I had been intimidated for no reason and was overthinking things as usual. Paella is not hard to make at home- and it’s very easy to make on the grill, or “a la parilla.” It’s a showstopper of a meal that will have your friends and family drooling in awe- despite the fact that most of the work is done on the stovetop using fairly simple methods and ingredients. I use the grill just as I would use an oven in this scenario- all the major stirring and sautéing is actually done over the stove. Just before it’s time to add the stock and chicken back into the pan, I turn off the burner and head outside, place the paella directly on the grate, finish up my steps and then close the lid. The grill gives the paella amazing smoky flavor, especially when you add soaked woodchips to the coals. Any fruitwood chips would be very nice here with the chicken- I had applewood chips on hand that did the job beautifully, but cherrywood or even hickory would be lovely as well. If you don’t have a charcoal grill, you can use a gas grill and place the woodchips in one of those little containers made for that use. It’s important to soak them first otherwise they might flare up on you! Also- you could skip the grill (and the woodchips) all together and do this in a 400° oven with the rack set in the middle. You won’t get that same smoky, wood scented flavor in your paella, but it will still be delish!
This is a “paella de la tierra”- so you won’t find seafood in this recipe. I use bone-in skin-on thighs and smoked chorizo links for a hearty, earthy dish. Look for chorizo that is fully cooked in the refrigerated meat section- not the shelf stable dry kind or the raw type. If you can’t find it, andouille or hot italian sausage makes a good sub! And on the thighs, I’d suggest purchasing as many as mouths you are feeding, so that everyone can get a thigh with their scoop of paella. If you can’t cope with the notion of a seafood free paella, feel free to add some raw peeled and deveined shrimp on top of the dish when you add the peas! Just make sure it’s opaque and fully cooked before you take the pan off the grill. Salud!
prep time: ~30 cook time: ~45 serves: 4-6
3-1/4 cups chicken stock
large pinch of saffron
extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4-6 thighs)
6 oz smoked chorizo sausage, sliced into half moons (from about 2 fully cooked links)
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas
chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT 15” paella pan or cast iron skillet
2 handfuls wood chips for the grill (I used applewood chips, but other types will also work)
outdoor charcoal or gas grill
Preheat the grill to 400° and place the wood chips in a bowl- cover them with water to soak at least 30 minutes before draining them and tossing them on the hot coals.
While the wood chips are soaking, place the chicken stock in a 4 cup measuring container or bowl. Add the saffron and allow to steep 30 minutes in the stock while you prep the remaining ingredients.
Heat a paella pan or cast iron skillet over medium on the stove and add 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the chicken thighs skin side down to cook undisturbed about 3 minutes, or until deeply browned. Flip and do the same on the other side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Add the chorizo to the chicken drippings and cook to brown all over and render some fat, 3 minutes more. Transfer the sausage with a slotted spoon to the plate with the chicken. Discard all but 1 tbsp oil in the pan.
Swirl another tbsp of olive oil into the pan and add the onion to sweat, stirring often 3-5 minutes until softened. Add the peppers to the onions along with a big pinch of salt and cook down 3 minutes more. Toss in the garlic, thyme, bay leaf and paprika and stir into the onion/pepper mixture- cook 1 minute more. Pour in the rice and stir to combine, cooking and stirring frequently until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes more. Add the white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits stuck there. Allow the wine to reduce completely, then turn off the heat. Stir the chorizo into the rice mixture and take the pan along with the remaining ingredients outside to the grill.
Once the grill is at temperature, place the pan directly on the grate. Pour the saffron steeped stock over the rice mixture, and season with 2-1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste. Stir gently to combine ingredients, being cautious not to splash. Lay the chicken thighs skin side up on top- it will look very soupy but the rice will begin absorbing the liquid quickly! Close the lid on the grill and monitor the temperature while the paella cooks 20-30 minutes or so, until the thighs are cooked through, the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is fluffy. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, scatter the peas in and around the thighs and close the lid back up so that they thaw.
Remove the paella from the grill to a heat tolerant surface. Gently fluff the rice around the thighs so that the peas slightly mix into the grains. Sprinkle the dish with some parsley and serve hot!