About Me

My photo
Hello! Welcome to my online travel-food-life journal/virtual scrapbook. I am a poet, playwright, journalist, editor and basic jack-of-all-trades writer. I was born in El Salvador and raised in Minnesota. I have just returned home from a year and a half in South Africa.

07 January 2013

Recipe: ¡Paella!

Hello and Happy New Year!

I hope you have had a wonderful holiday season!  I want to share with you the dish we made on Christmas Eve:  Paella! It is an absolute feast, worthy of any special occasion.

This is how my mother and my aunts make paella.  As many of you may know, there are many ways of making it -- from the most traditional Valencian paellas made with rabbit and snails -- to all seafood, all meat and vegetarian paellas.  This is a classic paella mixta (mixed paella) -- a mix of meat and seafood.  This was my first time making it, with my mother leading the way.  

Now this paella is enormous; it feeds probably 12-16, with leftovers.  You can certainly scale it down as needed.

I am so happy to share this amazing recipe and my family's tradition with you.  And let me tell you -- this paella is out-of-this-world. 

 ¡Buen provecho!

Quesada Family Paella

Extra virgin olive oil
12 drumsticks (or you can do one per person)
1 rack of baby back ribs
1 pinch of saffron
1 huge onion or 2 medium, chopped
5-6 large garlic cloves
1 large red pepper; 1/2 chopped, 1/2 cut in strips
1 large yellow pepper; 1/2 chopped, 1/2 cut in strips
2 large tomatoes, chopped
24 mussels (approx)
12-16 large scallops (approx)
24 large shrimp (approx)
4 cups arborio rice
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
Flat leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)
Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper


Begin by dusting the baby back ribs with garlic powder, cumin, paprika, adobo, salt and pepper.  My mother has the butcher cut the rack into long strips to make cutting them into bite size pieces easier later on.  It's not necessary but nice.

Put the ribs into the oven with the broiler on.

Now here's the thing that makes paella paella -- real Spanish saffron.  Expensive as all get-out, but for a feast it's worth it.

Add a pinch to the 8 cups of stock and set the stock to simmer.

Dust the drumsticks with garlic powder, cumin, paprika, adobo, salt and pepper.  Add 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil to the paella (paella is the name of the dish and the name of the pan) or whatever dish you are using.  (A 12-inch stainless steel pan would work well for a smaller batch.)  Heat up and add the drumsticks and whole garlic cloves.  Brown the chicken slowly so that you don't end up with burned skin and raw chicken inside.  Turn the pieces frequently.

In the meantime, chop your veggies:

Also, be checking and turning the ribs, when they're well browned, take them out of the oven.  Turn the oven down to 350F/180C.  Cut the ribs into bite-sized pieces. 

Add them to the chicken.  Take out the (by now well-browned) garlic cloves.

Add the onions, and cook a few minutes will they're soft:

Now add the chopped peppers:


Let them cook till soft then add the 4 cups of rice.  Stir the rice through the meat and veggies and saute for a few minutes:

Add all the stock:

Give the paella a good stir and cook it over medium heat until you see the rice begin to emerge out of the liquid:

At this point, add the seafood, right on top:

Pour some of the stock/broth over the seafood.  A turkey baster is a great tool for this:

And decorate the top of your paella, alternating the red and yellow pepper strips:

Now take a deep breath, gird your loins and hoist that baby into the oven.  Seriously, it's heavy, be careful!

The paella will take another 30 minutes or so to finish cooking and absorb all the stock.  After about 15 minutes add the frozen peas.  Be checking the rice.  This is one dish where you do not want the rice al dente, you want it soft all the way through.  If at any point it looks like the paella is drying out and the rice is still not done, you can add a bit of water (or stock, if you've got some extra.)  When all the water is absorbed and the rice is soft, the paella is done!

Sprinkle with the chopped parsley y ¡ya está!

From my family to yours ¡Buen Provecho!

Me and my mom, the master paella maker!