Skillet Paella in the Park
Serves 3 to 4
Total Time: 1 hour
Just as cast iron is one of the most versatile cookware materials, Paella is a supremely adaptable dish; it is a platform for all kinds of ingredient combinations and can be easily tuned to a wide array of diets. The steps listed below, learned from Bob Burdett, a self-made paella master, will guide you through the preparation. Substitute ingredients to make your own totally unique skillet paella.
- Keep the broth to rice ratio to a minimum to avoid overly mushy rice
- Cook everything in the same piece of cookware
- Salt as you go and sample the cooking liquid to test the levels
- Prepare all ingredients in advance to ensure an easy assembly
- Use all the fond and renderings from browning the chicken to further flavor the dish
- Use the Ironwood 267 Skillet Set to cook and serve your paella straight from the grill
- 1 large yellow onion
- 8 ounces medium-grain white rice
- 20-24 ounces low sodium chicken broth (seafood or vegetable broth can be subbed)
- 3 tablespoons light olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 pinch of saffron threads (½ gram)
Our preferred additional ingredients:
- 4 chicken thighs
- 2 oz hard-cured Spanish chorizo in ⅛” coins or ⅜” coins that are then quartered
- 4 raw shrimp
- 8 live mussels
- 4 oz of pimento olives
- ½ red pepper cleaned of ribs, sliced into strips, and roasted
- 1 handful of shelled peas
Just the Gist Preparation
- Roast the pepper and let your grill heat up
- Heat oil in your skillet and thoroughly brown the chicken
- Saute onions until transparent, stir in rice, then add broth and saffron
- Place the remaining ingredients, including chicken, into the rice and broth
- Taste the broth after a few minutes and correct salt levels as needed
- Cook until rice is mostly cooked through (about 30 minutes) and rest covered for 5 minutes before serving
Once the process of cooking a paella begins, you will need to add ingredients in relatively rapid succession. For that reason, a paella chef will want all ingredients metered out and at the ready before anything goes into the pan.
If you are cooking outdoors at home, load your ingredients into small bowls and place them near your grilling station. If you are picnicking, just pack the prepared ingredients into your preferred food container type and tote them to the grill site.
Light up your grill and heat your skillet or paella pan. Using several burners on a gas grill will provide excellent, even heat. In the lake-front cooking session shown here we used a Thai style charcoal for our heat source. These coals take a long time to get going, but after about an hour, they kick off very even heat.
As the grill is warming up you can quickly roast the red peppers.
Once the grill is hot it is time to start browning the chicken. Salt the chicken prior to cooking. Heat your cooking oil to the point where a drop of water placed in it will evaporate in a few seconds. Place the thighs or legs into the hot oil and cook until you achieve browning all around the parts.
Once the chicken is browned, remove it from the pan and set it to the side on a plate. The chicken will not be cooked all the way through at this point, especially if it has bones. That is okay since this will be cooked further in the rice with the rest of the ingredients.
Place the diced yellow onion into the pan. Stirring frequently, cook the onion until it is just about transparent. If the onion starts browning, turn down the heat on the gas grill or cycle the pan on and off of the charcoal grill and stir more regularly. Salt the onions lightly while sauteing.
When the onion is done, stir in the dry rice. Mix the rice and the onion so that the rice is coated in oil. After about a minute of cooking, pour in the stock and stir all of the ingredients around. Use a spoon or spatula to spread the rice more or less evenly across the dish.
You can add the saffron directly to the pan or you can put the saffron in the stock and add the two together. The advantage of putting the saffron in the stock is that it dissipates and more evenly permeates the dish. You can grind the saffron in a mortar and pestle, but you can also add whole threads as we did in this example.
With the broth added, it is time to add the rest of the ingredients. Add the chicken, shrimp, mussels, the strips of red pepper, olives, peas, and slices of chorizo.
Place the ingredients evenly throughout the dish. This not only creates a beautiful composition of colors in the saffron-tinted rice, but it also helps to distribute the flavors of the ingredients throughout the dish. Give the bulkier ingredients (chorizo, chicken, and seafood) a gentle push so that they are fully seated into the bed of rice and broth.
Cook the paella, revolving the pan and lightly shaking it every few minutes. The paella should proceed at a simmer to a low simmer. The rice will absorb the broth and will fluff up around the embedded ingredients.
Avoid the temptation to stir the paella rather shake the pan a little to loosen the ingredients.
When the rice looks mostly cooked (there will still be a few dry looking kernels on the top at the edges) remove from the fire, cover with foil, let rest for 5 minutes, and then serve.
A paella cooked in the Ironwood skillet will feed 3 to 4 people.
A special thanks to Bob Burdett, Paella Master Extraordinaire, for all of the lessons over the years. And thanks to Sharon and Charles for hanging out on an iffy-weather Chicago Spring night.
Photo Credits: Ironwood Cookware