Our First Paella, With a Recipe for the Next…

July 2, 2012

On a sunny, hot Canada Day (Observed), we headed out with our special guests, grandpa Silvio and Jessie, for a tour of Toronto’s Kensington Market. We were on a mission to source the ingredients for our very First Paella, which we were planning to make on the gas grill later that afternoon. We already had a brand new 17.5-in paella pan (it was one of my fabulous birthday presents!), olive oil, chicken stock, sweet smoked paprika, artichokes, and a bag of Spanish Bomba rice at home. At the market, we found the rest of our essentials. At New Seaway Fish (195 Baldwin Street) we picked up about two pounds of deveined shrimp and four large and very beautifully cleaned up calamari. Then, we crossed over to Sanagans Meat Locker (206 Baldwin) for four of their AMAZING sausages. After a stop at the spice market to the east of Sanagans for a small box of saffron, it was off to the vegetable stands on Augusta for shallots, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes, and peas. The kids had a great time showing their grandparents around the place, pointing out the cool grilled cheese shop, and trading hugs for cookies.  Then, it was back home on the streetcar for the great big experiment.

 To my surprise, the hardest part of the paella-making process was not the grilling! I had thought I was going to have to adjust the level of the paella pan on the grill during the cooking, and I had all kinds of baking racks and risers jimmied up for a chore which, in the end, I never had to perform. The most difficult part of the process, as it turned out, was the mise en place: getting all of the ingredients chopped, cleaned and prepared for the cooking.  The kids had disappeared, at that point, to their rooms, asking to be called down the moment the new mystery meal was ready for consumption.  Luckily, I had a willing companion in Jessie to help me get everything ready to go into the pan.  Also, my dad Silvio sat around pouring us glasses of wine and offering us cheese and crackers throughout the very giddy experiment.  With family, the twenty to forty minutes of chopping, cleaning, and peeling went by quickly and in good humour.  Still, it was hard work!  Having everything ready to go, however, made the cooking process an absolute breeze.  Although we didn’t use either chicken or langostines, we used similar measurements and the basic method for the “Paella Rice with Chicken Langostines” Alberto Harraiz’s Paella (Phaidon, 2011) to achieve our results: an incredible Paella Rice with Shrimp, Calamari and Sausage.

Below, you’ll find a modified recipe for Paella based on our first attempt! We have included photographs of our own first paella in progress with notes on revisions throughout. We changed things up, slightly, by doubling the original amount of sausage we used and cooking it on the side. We have also included chicken, here, as in Harraiz’s original recipe.

Summer of Funner Paella Rice with Chicken, Shrimp, Calamari, and Sausage



2 Bay leaves
1 very large sprig of Thyme (we used Lemon Thyme)
1 large sprig of Fresh Rosemary or a tablespoon of Dry
1 Small square of Cheesecloth
2 tbs Saffron
1 tbs Smoked Sweet Paprika
200 ml/1 cup Olive Oil
2 litres/8.5 cups Chicken Stock, Water, or a mix of the two
6 Young Artichokes (optional)
1 Lime (optional)
2 Tomatoes
4 Cloves Garlic
4 Shallots
2 Green Peppers (we used long,sweet green peppers)
200 ml/1cup fresh or defrosted Green Peas
1-1.5kg/2-3lb boned, skinless Organic Chicken (optional)
4 cleaned Squid
1kg/2 lb cleaned, deveined Shrimp
8 beautiful Sausages
400 g/2 cups Spanish Bomba Rice (substitute Arborio or Carnaroli rice in an emergency)
Paella Pan

Method: Mise en Place

Make a Bouquet Garni

Place Bay Leaf, Thyme, and Rosemary in a piece of cheesecloth
Knot the Cheesecloth

Toast and Grind the Saffron
Place Saffron in a Small Aluminum Foil Packet
Bake at 300F for 30 seconds, that’s right, seconds!
Grind Saffron in a Mortar and Pestle

Lime the Artichokes (Optional)
Trim and, if necessary, peel the artichokes
Slice into Quarters
Rub with Lime
Soak in Water and Lime Juice
Drain before cooking

Dice and Chop the Vegetables
Dice Garlic and Shallots
Seed, Remove the liquid from, and finely dice the Tomatoes
Slice Green Peppers into 2-3 inch slivers.

Prep the Fish and (Optional) Chicken
Slice the Squid into Rings
Shell and, if necessary, devein shrimp, leaving tails on
(Optional) Slice Chicken into 1.5 gram (nice looking) chunks


Method: Preparing the Paella on the Gas Grill
[We have a smaller sized Ducane Gas Grill. We had no need to raise or lower the paella pan during cooking. You may want to have a few wire racks (the ones with legs work great) to raise the pan slightly if you feel your pan is getting too hot.]

Part One: Veg and Proteins
Heat the grill to medium high.
Place pan on grill and add olive oil until hot.
Optional: Saute the chicken pieces in the center of the pan until slightly brown.
[Envision chicken in the place of the sausage in our pictures, here. Sausage should be kept to the side.]
Optional: Push chicken pieces to the edges of the pan.
Lower heat to medium.
Add garlic and shallots to the center of the pan and saute until slighly softened. Push to edges.
Add peppers and (optional) artichokes to the center and saute until slightly softened. Push to edges.
Add calamari to the center of pan and saute for a minute or so max. Push to edges.
Add shrimp to the center of the pan and saute just until shrimp are light pink.
REMOVE the shrimp from the pan, plate and cover with aluminum foil.
Add tomatoes to the pan and saute until tomato thickens slightly and looks more like a paste.
Add paprika and stir for a few seconds.
As you perform Part Two, steam and/or grill your Sausages on a side burner and on the grill beside of the paella pan, removing them to a plate when they are completely cooked.

Part Two: Liquids and Rice = Paella Magic!
Pour 1 litre/2.25 cups of stock or water into the paella pan full of veggies, fish and chicken.
Turn the heat up on the grill to medium high/high and bring to a boil.
Boil for 1 minute more.
Add the bouquet garni.
Take a small piece of aluminum foil and bend it over the edge of the pan to mark where the level of liquid is in the pan right now. [It should fill the pan about half way to the top.]
[Again, envision chicken in place of the sausage in the pan in our pictures, below. And don’t add any sausages to the pan!]
Add the other litre/2.25 cups water or stock to the pan and bring to a boil again.
Cook until the liquid evaporates/returns to the level you marked with aluminum foil [about halfway to the top edge of the pan].
Feel free to use gloves or tongs to rotate the paella pan around in the grill for even cooking.
Sprinkle in the rice and saffron.
Especially if you are using water instead of stock, season with salt and pepper.
Stir a bit to distribute everything evenly around the pan. …and then…
After the ingredients have come to a nice boil and boiled for about 5 minutes, carefully remove the bouquet garni.
When the rice starts to rise to the top of the pan (this will take a while), lower the heat slightly.
Continue cooking the until the contents of the pan transform from a soup into a proper rice dish, carefully using a fork or small spoon to taste a few morsels of rice from the top of the pan to test for doneness.
If the rice looks completely cooked and it still too firm, add a few ladles full of hot chicken stock without stirring it in.
Close the lid of the grill if necessary to help make the rice tender.
When the rice looks and tastes finished, without disturbing the rice, add peas and shrimp to the top of the pan and cook 2-3 minutes more, closing the lid of the grill if desired.
Again, without stirring or disturbing the paella, add the grilled/cooked sausages in a ring around the circumference of the pan.
Immediately remove the paella pan from the grill and let rest for 3 minutes.
Serve the paella using a wooden spoon or have everyone dig directly into the pan with their own utensils.

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