Paella Paella! The easy party supper

Jan 22, 2018 at 02:00 pm by Easywaygourmet


Paella, Paella!  Easy Party Supper

For years I have been fascinated by the idea of paella.  It’s a traditional Spanish dish so popular that they make special pans for making the perfect paella.  Most of us have heard of paella as a seafood dish, but the truth is that there are many paella recipes and they vary from region to region. 

Paella Valenciana is a dish made in Valencia, a beautiful city southeast of Madrid, often with chicken, rabbit and/or duck.  Spaniards will make seafood paella if they can get fish and shellfish fresh off the docks, but often they use poultry and game that is available from farms and forests in their own localities.

Often in summer, paella is made over a hot coal fire in the evening right on the beach with shellfish and fish that have been caught during the day.  

On a recent trip to Spain, we were lucky enough to visit Valencia and even luckier to learn how to cook paella from a young master of the dish from Valencia. 

It was a great experience for me, but an even better one for some friends because they got to benefit from my learning and enjoy both seafood and meat paellas at a recent supper here in Murfreesboro. 

The best news for you, however, is that I tested both recipes and decided that a paella party can be one of the easiest celebrations for a crowd that you can enjoy at home. If you want to get authentic paella pans, they are available online from a variety of sources such as or even Amazon. 

To make this a paella party, I suggest gathering a group and preparing a few munchies or a salad that people can enjoy while you are cooking. 

Plan for the group to eat family-style, gathered around the pan and serving themselves directly from the pan as soon as it is cooked. The only other things I’d add to the party are a pitcher of sangria and a loaf or two of crusty French bread.  During the summer, our paella master suggests making your paella over a charcoal fire, which adds a smoky flavor and some fun for your party guests. 

The basics of paella are simple. 

First, you need a wide shallow pan. It can be a paella pan, but a paella for four people can be made with a shallow twelve-inch skillet if you don’t want to invest in a special pan. 

Second, the stock you make is critical. Start with a full flavor stock made from your main ingredient—either a seafood or chicken stock and infuse it with saffron, smoked paprika and herbs before you begin making the paella itself. 

Third, the rice is important. Most recipes call for a paella rice or medium grain rice. Our paella master told us to use Arborio rice, the same kind used for risotto which is readily available at most groceries here in the South.

Fourth, preparing your ingredients and lining them up before you start cooking is important for paella. The cooking steps are easy, but the dish comes together quickly, so having the ingredients ready to hand makes the whole thing more simple.

Fifth, you must have a good source of heat that reaches all the way across your pan.  I have a large gas stove, so for me it was easy. Some folks choose to use a gas cooker outside like those propane outdoor cookers—which some people use for turkey or fish frying. Still others will use their charcoal grill.

Finally, if you are making a poultry-based paella and you want it to be authentic, you will need some special white beans—we used giant white beans, but you can substitute cannellini beans. These need to be cooked ahead of time, as they won’t cook enough to be soft during the paella process. 

To share the paella master class experience, I will add a photo album to the Murfreesboro Voice gallery, but here are the two paella recipes I used recently for a paella party of our own, which turned out quite well.   

Paella Valenciana

(This is the recipe from our paella master class, and some of the ingredients are listed with varying amounts.  This paella is designed to serve four to six people. We suggest using the amounts that feel best for your group, but the pans get larger for more people and may be hard to find.)

6 cups chicken stock

1 tsp. saffron threads

1 tsp. rosemary, chopped

2 tsp. smoked sweet paprika

2-3 lbs. chicken, duck or rabbit pieces, skin on and bone in

4-6 Tablespoons olive oil

1-2 cups Italian style green beans, cleaned and cut into 2 inch pieces

1 cup cooked large white beans such as cannellini or giant white beans

1 large tomato, chopped well

2 cups short or medium grain rice such as Arborio


First, make the special paella stock. In a medium saucepan, add stock, paprika, rosemary and saffron. Cook the stock over medium heat for ten to fifteen minutes, stirring until the flavors have developed. Heat a large shallow pan (14 to 16 inches in diameter) over medium-high heat and sprinkle salt around the outer edge of the cooking surface. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and let the oil get hot. Brown the meat pieces in the oil, making sure to cook it until they are well browned on all sides. Add both types of beans and cook until they are heated through. Move the meat and beans to the outer edges of the pan and add the tomato to the center of the pan. Let the tomato cook for a minute or two, then scatter the rice evenly over the whole pan. Cook the rice, stirring all the ingredients together for two minutes, then pour four to five cups of stock around the whole pan. Cook, stirring until the stock and rice start to bubble. At this point, turn the heat down until the rice and stock are just simmering. Now, you should stop stirring and let the rice cook slowly for twenty to thirty minutes, adding more stock if the rice appears to be getting dry. At this point, taste the rice and add salt and pepper if necessary. Cover the pan for the last five minutes, checking the rice and meat first to make sure it is completely cooked. If the rice or meat need a little more cooking time, cover it and let it cook gently until everything is thoroughly cooked. Serve the dish family style, allowing your guests to help themselves straight from the pan.  

Paella Marisco

(This is a traditional seafood paella designed to serve six to eight people, and you can use whatever shellfish and fish you can get fresh. But as we are living in a landlocked area, I suggest going to the seafood counter at a larger store like Sprouts, Publix or Kroger and talking with the staff there to be sure you are using the best products you can get. If you want to make a mixed paella, you can add some chunks of mild chorizo and/or chicken pieces—brown it with the fish at the beginning and add it back in when you scatter the rice over the pan.)

8 cups of seafood stock

1 tsp. saffron threads

1 to 2 pounds of firm fleshed white fish such as cod, cut into large chunks

1 pound of fresh mussels in the shell

1 pound small fresh clams in the shell

18 to 20 large shrimp, cleaned with the tails left on

Optional:  2-3 king crab legs, chopped into four inch lengths

Sea salt

6-8 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion, minced

8 scallions, chopped

1 red bell pepper, minced

1 large tomato, minced

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

8 cloves garlic finely minced

1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tsp. sweet smoked paprika

2 cups Arborio or paella rice

Lemon wedges

First, make the special paella stock.  Heat the seafood stock in a stockpot. Stir in the saffron and simmer for 15 minutes.  Pat the fish and shrimp dry, make sure your mussels, clams and any crab legs (if you have them) have been rinsed and the shells are clean and intact. Discard any bivalves that are damaged or don’t close when you pick them up. In a large shallow 16 to 18-inch skillet or paella pan, scatter salt around the edges. Then heat enough olive oil in the pan to cover the bottom of the pan or medium-high heat. Quickly brown the fish for 1-2 minutes and remove it to a warm plate. Add more oil if the pan is dry anywhere. Add the onion, scallions and red pepper to the pan and cook until the vegetables seem softened. Increase the temperature to high and add the tomato to the center of the pan. Cook it for a few minutes until it becomes sauce-like. Pour in 6 cups of the hot stock and stir in the parsley, garlic, thyme and paprika. Sprinkle the rice evenly over the pan. Let it boil for 5 minutes, stirring the rice and rotating the pan occasionally as you stir. Turn the heat down to simmer. Do not stir the rice after this point. Continue simmering the rice for ten to fifteen minutes until the rice is al dente and is no longer soupy but still has some liquid remaining. At this point, taste for salt and add more stock if the rice seems dry—you want it to still have enough liquid in it to cook the seafood, but not so much that it drowns! Add the fish back to the pan. Arrange the shrimp, clams, mussels and crab in the rice and cook for another 15 minutes or until the rice is done. Turn the heat off, cover the pan with foil and let it sit for ten minutes (this should allow time for the mussels and clams to open, if they haven’t already.) Garnish the pan with lemon wedges and serve.