When I try a new recipe for something I've made before, be it brownies or arroz con pollo, I always say, "Is this tastier or easier than my usual recipe?" Because if it's not, I won't be making it again. So, I present the following paella recipe to you with the disclaimer that I won't be making it again, for two reasons: (1) The oven method does not allow for the rice to form a crunchy brown soccarat on the bottom, the prized part of the paella, and (2) I prefer to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs instead of chunks of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. That being said, this recipe was absolutely delicious, and even Steph and Julie liked it! (Pete? Not so much.) I don't know why Michael Chiarello considers this Italian, aside from the fact that he suggests substituting soppressata for Spanish chorizo (I did, but I prefer chorizo) and passing a bowl of pepperoncini at serving time (which I bought but forgot to offer). If you make this, I promise you that you will love it, but it's not the real deal. If you are ready to go to the next step, I realize that I am overdue to post my paella recipe, which I've only hinted at up till now. Oh, and by the way, I totally blew it by not taking a photo tonight; this dish was positively gorgeous.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 2 lb. total, cut into bite-size chunks
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 oz. soppressata or other spicy dried Italian sausage, cut crosswise into ¼" slices and then quartered
3½ tsp Spanish paprika (pimentón), divided use
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped carrot
3 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
1 tsp saffron threads
1 can (14.5 oz.) peeled crushed tomatoes
Jarred pepperoncini, for serving
Preheat oven to 350°.
Season chicken with 1½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Season shrimp with ½ tsp salt and ¼ pepper.
Heat oil in a large paella pan (or wide skillet) over high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add the chicken. Cook, turning once, until well browned on both sides, 6–7 minutes total. Add the sausage to the pan and cook for 10 seconds. Add the shrimp to the pan, stir once, then cook for 2–3 minutes until it begins to turn pink. Stir in 1½ tsp paprika and the oregano. Dump the mixture onto a baking sheet to cool.
Return the pan to high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Pour the juices from the baking sheet into the pan. (We didn't have any.) Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.
Raise the heat to high. Add 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, and remaining 2 tsp paprika. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice. Stir to evenly coat the grains and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring it up to a simmer. Stir in the saffron and the tomatoes. Cover and put the pan in the oven. (If your paella pan, like mine, doesn't have a cover, use aluminum foil.) Cook for 15 minutes (you will no longer see any visible liquid on the surface). Remove the pan from the oven and return the chicken, sausage, and shrimp to the pan, distributing evenly. Cover the pan again and put it back in the oven to cook for an additional 10–15 minutes or until rice is tender.
Serve the paella warm with a bowl of pepperoncini on the side. If you remember.