Before we get started, I have to say that I’m fully aware that this is not true, classic Spanish Paella. I don’t claim it to be, but this is the way we like to make paella in my home. With a little adjustment to the traditional seasonings, a crispy, crackly bottom crust, and spicy sausage, shrimp, and chicken, it’s an incredibly flavorful dish. So flavorful, in fact, that I find myself making it about once a week in the off season. It’s that good, and here’s just how you do it.
The most important choice you’re going to make in paella is the type of rice you use, so that it will cook up but not be clumpy or thick. Short-grain white rice is perfect because it doesn’t lose its texture and the grains remain separate even after all that cooking.
As for protein – I like to use white chicken meat rather than the more customary thighs but you could easily sub in thighs if you’d like. I find a spicy chicken sausage works really well here, though linguisa and chorizo are more common and work great too. If you’re using a raw sausage, just par-cook it a bit first to make slicing easier. Then you can sear it as needed and it will finish cooking through with the rest of the dish.
It’s of course much easier to use shrimp that are already peeled, deveined and with tails removed. It makes for a nicer presentation if the tails are on but it’s certainly easier to eat if the work has been done for you.
While you’ll want to peel your tomato, you don’t need to bother removing the insides and seeds. The extra juice helps add a bit of moisture to deglaze the pan and get the stuck-on sausage and chicken bits off the bottom. And you want all of that goodness in there.
Once you have everything nestled in, you want to make sure not to touch or stir the rice. Many recipes might call for you to simmer on low, but I find that that ends up taking way too long for the rice to absorb all the liquid so I recommend doing a heat that’s a touch higher than barely simmering, closer to medium-low.
That also ensures you get the best part of the dish – socarrat. Socarrat is the term for the rice that gets crispy on the bottom of the paella, and it is a cherished part of this dish. I end the cooking process by turning the heat up to medium to make sure that not only all the liquid is absorbed but also that you get a crispy bottom crust. Keep cooking until you hear the rice crackling and crusting. It’s fun to eat and scrape from the bottom later, and tasty to boot.
This is a versatile dish – there’s so many things you can do differently whether that’s changing out the type of chicken, adding any combination of seafood and sausage that you’d like, or stirring in some peas and carrots. A lot of versions will include saffron and paprika in the chicken stock, but I tend to prefer a the cleaner taste of just using chicken stock where you get the flavor of the protein and the rice better, accentuated by the veggies used and the caramelization of the crisping rice. As you can see, though, this is a dish you can change to suit your likes and dislikes. I hope you enjoy it.
Shrimp and Sausage Paella
Serves 4 Prep 10m Cook 30m
- 1/2 cup short-grain white rice
- 1 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 lb spicy sausage, like linguisa or chorizo, sliced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1/2 small onion, finely diced
- 1 medium tomato, peeled and finely diced
- 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- If using raw sausage, cook in a separate pan for 3-5 minutes, then slice into discs of your preferred thickness.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat a 10-inch paella pan over medium-high heat. Add avocado oil and sear chicken on both sides until nicely browned. Remove chicken and set aside. (Chicken does not need to be fully cooked through as it will continue cooking later.)
- Add sliced sausage and sear on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Add bell pepper, onion, tomato, parsley, and garlic, and cook on med-high for about 8 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper. Continually scrape the bottom of the pan, using the tomato juices to help deglaze and get all the good chicken and sausage bits off the pan.
- When the veggies are cooking down and beginning to color, add olive oil and dry rice, and cook for 3-5 minutes, keeping the rice moving.
- Add chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to fully remove any seared bits remaining. Add chicken back to pan, bring to a boil, and drop heat to med-low. Simmer the paella for 10 minutes.
- Nestle shrimp into the open spots and remaining liquid, and lightly season them with salt. Place sausage pieces on top of dish where it looks open. Cook until shrimp start turning pink.
- Increase heat to medium and cook until the liquid has been fully absorbed and the rice begins to crackle and crisp.
- Remove from heat and cover with a towel for 5 minutes. Serve with sprinkling of fresh parsley and lemon wedges, if desired.