I talked tough about taking it easy on vacation, didn’t I? Sometimes my cooking ambitions get away from me. My big production meal while I was at the cottage was paella on the grill.
Paella on the grill is a great recipe for a crowd, but I forgot how much dicing is involved. It is a bit of work when you’ve been throwing the kids into Lake Erie all day.
But I made my Mom happy. Isn’t that what really matters?
I have modified my technique since I last posted about paella on the grill. I read an article by Sarah Jay in Fine Cooking magazine about paella, where she explains the cardinal sin of paella cooking: having too much rice in the pan. Sarah says you want just enough rice to cover the pan. This makes sure the rice cooks evenly, and gives a higher proportion of browned soccarat rice on the bottom. According to the article, my old 13 inch paella pan was too small for the 3 cups of rice I usually cook, so I traded up to a 16 inch pan from PaellaPans.com. I love it, but I still want to go larger – my kettle is 22.5 inches wide, so I can fit a 22 inch pan in there.
Bigger is better, right?
Yes, gadget lust is an ugly thing. But…anyone out there have a large paella pan in their Weber kettle? How big of a pan will fit before you catch the handles on the grill grate? Let me know in the comments.
Sarah is right about the rice proportions, too – the rice was tastier cooked in the larger pan. The shellfish added their brine into the rice, the chorizo gave it a spicy, meaty flavor, and the grill added a hint of smoke. It was a lot of work…but it was worth it to sit down with a glass of Spanish Cava, relax for a minute, then dig in.
Grilled Paella with Shellfish, Chorizo, and Chicken (Paella Mixta). The traditional Spanish dish, made with shellfish, chorizo, and chicken, cooked on a kettle grill.
(Inspired by Sarah Jay, Fine Cooking Magazine)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 pound chicken breast tenders
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 8 ounces Spanish chorizo (or a spicy dry cured sausage like sopressata)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton de La Vera)
- 3 cups short grain rice (Valencia is authentic; Arborio is easier find.)
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ tsp saffron threads (optional – expensive, but authentic)
- 4 cups chicken broth (or water)
- 16 oz bottled clam juice (or more broth)
- 1 pound 20-25 count shrimp, uncooked
- 12 little neck clams
- 24 mussels
- Prepare your ingredients: The key to this recipe is having all your prep work done before you start cooking. Sprinkle the chicken tenders with ½ teaspoon of salt. Dice the chorizo. Chop all the vegetables; put the chorizo, onion and bell pepper in one bowl, and the garlic and paprika in another bowl. Heat the broth and clam juice to a simmer, then crumble in the saffron threads and let them steep. Rinse and check all the clams and mussels. (Nothing will ruin a dish like a bad mussel or clam. Make sure all the shellfish are tightly closed, or close when you squeeze them. If in doubt, throw it out!)
- Prepare the grill for direct medium-high heat (400°F): Set your grill up for cooking on medium-high heat. For my kettle grill, this means filling a Weber charcoal chimney with charcoal, lighting it, and waiting for it to be covered with white ashes. Then, I spread it over 2/3rds of the grill grate in an even, single layer of coals.
- Brown the chicken: Put the paella pan on the grill over direct heat, then add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Wait for the oil to start shimmering, about 1 minute. Add the chicken to the pan and brown it well on each side, about 2 minutes per side, then remove to a cutting board and chop the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Set the chicken aside for later.
- Sauté the aromatics and chorizo: Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and let it heat until shimmering. Add the onions, peppers, and chorizo to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Make a hole in the center of the onions and add the garlic and paprika. Saute for about a minute, or until you can smell the garlic, then stir the garlic and paprika into the onions.
- Simmer the rice: Stir the rice into the pan and cook until the grains are shiny, about 1 minute. Pour in the mix of broth, clam juice, and saffron to just come to the top of the rice. Simmer the rice for 15 minutes, adding more of the broth/clam juice mix whenever the rice is starts to look dry; the rice will absorb most of the water during the cooking time. Rotate the pan every now and again to even out the heat.
- Cook the seafood: Add the mussels and clams, hinge side down, nestling them into the rice to hold them upright. Scatter the shrimp and the chicken over the top. Add one more pour of broth and clam juice if you have any left. Cook until the the mussels and clams open and the shrimp is opaque in the middle, about 10 minutes. Ideally, the rice will just start to brown on the bottom when the mussels are cooked. (That browning is called soccarat, and is prized in Spain. Check for it with a wooden spoon at a couple of spots in the pan. If you need to, leave the pan on the grill for an extra couple of minutes to get the soccarat.)
- Serve: Take the entire pan to the table, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let the rice rest for ten minutes. Remove the towel and serve.
- Make sure your grill is level. My grill was on a bit of an incline, and the pan, rice, and liquid kept leaning to the left. I worked around this by turning the pan until the rice started to thicken up a bit.
- In the pictures, you can see that I used cherrystone clams. This was a mistake; they were too large, and took too long to cook. I pulled them out of the paella and finished cooking them directly on the grill grate while the paella was in its “resting under a tea towel” step.
- Looking for a good source of Paella pans and ingredients? Check out PaellaPans.com.
- Category: Sunday Dinner
- Method: Grilling
- Cuisine: Spanish
Keywords: Grilling, Paella
What do you think?
Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Sarah Jay, Classic Seafood Paella, Fine Cooking Magazine
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