Paella is probably Spain’s most popular dish. It originated in the Valencia region located in Eastern Spain but can be found worldwide specially in countries that were once part of colonial Spain namely Cuba and the Philippines where it is also call Arroz Valenciana.
The word Paella mean “pan” in the Valencian dialect. It is usually made and served in a “paella” pan which is basically a somewhat flat shallow skillet with or without a cover. It is typically made with Bomba rice, a short grain rice variety cultivated in Spain’s eastern region. Traditional Valencian Paella includes some type of meat such as chicken, duck, or rabbit, and some type of green bean. It’s iconic yellow colored rice is achieved by adding saffron threads while cooking.
In modern time Paella has been adapted to use ingredients easily found in different areas of the country. One of the most popular, an my favorite is Paella de Marisco which is seafood mixed with the rice. This usually has shrimp, mussels or clams, squid, and sometimes lobster; is usually omits the vegetables. Then there’s Paella Mixta which combines meats including Chorizo (Spanish pork sausage), seafood, and vegetables. In short these days you can pretty much put whatever you want in a pealla. My husband prefers chicken or vegetarian Paella.
When I was growing up surrounded by grandmothers, aunts, and uncles many of whom were fantastic cooks, Arroz Valenciana or Paella was a treat. It would certainly be on a party menu, specially at Christmas. These days I usually have to get my Paella fix in Spain. It’s always one of our favorites when we’re in Barcelona, Majorca, or any part of Spain.
But since our yearly visits to Spain will not be possible this year we’ve found ourselves missing our favorite Spanish foods. That’s why I’ve been making tapas boards lately. I’ve also been making Paella. In fact I’ve been making it often enough that’s I’ve recently decided to order a paella pan.
Today I’ll share my recipe for Chicken Paella because it’s ingredients are probably the easiest to find. In fact you may already have it in your kitchen pantry. I mentioned that Paellas are typically made with Bomba rice, but it’s not always easy to find in the US, at least in Hawaii. I usually use Japanese short grain rice, the type you use to make sushi which is always found at any Asian market. Saffron is not easily found in regular supermarkets because it’s pretty expensive. I usually buy Saffron when I’m in Turkey or the Middle East where it’s readily available at the local spice markets at a reasonably lower price. If you don’t have Saffron you can use ground Turmeric to tint the rice yellow, but don’t use too much as it will leave a different flavor than what you want to achieve. I’d use no more than a teaspoon of turmeric powder dissolved in a cup of chicken stock.
1/2 Tsp. Crushed Saffron Threads
1/2 Cup White Wine
1/8 Cup Olive Oil
6-8 Chicken Thighs Bone-In with Skin
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1 Onion Chopped
2 Tbl. Minced Garlic
1 Tbs. Fresh Thyme chopped
1 1/2 Cup uncooked Bomba or other short grain rice
3 Cups Chicken Stock
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 Small Bag Frozen Peas
1 Red Pepper cut into strips
American Parsley – chopped (optional)
Lemon Wedges (optional)
Stir Saffron into wine and set aside.
Heat Olive Oil in Paella pan or large skillet.
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
Place thighs in heated oil skin side down and cook until golden brown, about 6-7 minutes.
Turn over and cook another 4-5 minutes.
Remove chicken from pan and set aside. (You may have to cook chicken in batches depending on how big your pan is and how many thighs you are using.)
Add onions, garlic, and thyme to pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, stir constantly to keep it from burning.
Add Rice and cook another 2 minutes while stirring constantly.
Add wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half.
Stir in lemon juice and chicken stock.
Place chicken skin side up on top of rice, cover, reduce heat to medium.
Simmer about 18 minutes until rice is almost cooked, it should be “al dente”.
Remove cover and add peas and pepper evenly over the pan.
Turn up heat to medium high and cook another 5 minutes or until rice begins to brown on the bottom and sides.
Remove from heat and sprinkle with parsley.
Serve hot with lemon wedges.
This dish pairs well with a pitcher of Sangria or a nice bottle of fruity red wine or a Chardonnay for white wine lovers.
Serving Tapas always remind me of my many trips to Barcelona. One of my favorite tapas are Gambas al Ajillo or Shrimp in Garlic Sauce. I love them with lots of crusty bread for dipping in that butter garlic sauce.
Tapas are small servings of Spanish foods. They’re usually eaten with wine or cocktails in the evenings before dinner. We enjoy them with a nice pitcher of Sangria. They’re a great way to sample a variety of Spanish dishes. I like to order a variety of Tapas and make a whole meal out of them.
Gambas al Ajillo are exactly like Shrimp Scampi. They are delicious and best of all very easy to make! I serve them hot off the stove on a mini cast iron skillet or a ceramic ramekin with lots of crusty baguette slices. Here’s my recipe!
Gambas al Ajillo
20 Medium shrimp (41/50 count) – peeled and de-veined with tail on
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/4 Stick Butter
1 Tbs. Finely Minced Garlic
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Heat Olive Oil in small skillet.
Melt butter in hot oil.
Add garlic and cook until garlic starts to turn brown. Stir constantly to keep garlic from burning.
Add shrimp and cook until shrimp turns pink.
Squeeze lemon juice over all.
Serve hot with crusty slices of bread.
Gambas al Ajillo Tapas - Shrimp in Garlic Sauce
Patatas Bravas is a favorite Spanish Tapa. Tapas of course are small portions of Spanish food that’s usually served with cocktails at bars or as appetizers. Or several types of Tapas can be cobbled together to make a meal. I love Tapas! It’s a great way to sample different types of Spanish food in one sitting.
Patatas Bravas is one of my favorites. It’s a simple dish of fried or baked potato wedges or cubes in a spicy sauce. I always order it when we’re in Barcelona or any other Spanish town or city. But traveling may prove to be difficult this year and we won’t be going on our usual Med Cruise or other European vacations. That’s why I’ve been making some of our favorite foods at home. After all eating local foods is a big part of traveling!
Lately I’ve been on a Spanish food kick and Patatas Bravas has been on top of my to make list. Everyone in my house loves it that it’s now become a family favorite. I serve it as an appetizer and as a side dish, either way it’s delicious!
Most places serve it with a mayonnaise based Garlic Aioli, but I like it without. You can make a simple Aioli by mixing together mayo, garlic powder, and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste and garnish with fresh chopped chives.
6-8 Yukon Gold Potatoes – peeled and cut into wedges
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 Tsp. Minced Garlic
2 Tbs. Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp. Chili Powder
2 Tsp. Ground Cumin
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1/4 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Tsp. Crushed Red Pepper flakes
Place potato wedges in a large pot and cover with water.
Bring water to boil and reduce heat.
Cook uncovered for about 8-10 minutes or until just tender. (you don’t want them too soft, they will fall apart)
Drain and pat potatoes dry with paper towel.
Place in bowl.
Toss potatoes in Olive Oil and Garlic until evenly coated.
In a small bowl combine the rest of the spices and sprinkle over potatoes.
Toss potatoes in spice mix until evenly coated.
Place potatoes on a baking sheet, spread out in a single layer.
Bake in pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until crispy. Stir potatoes about half way thru baking time.
Serve warm with or with out Aioli.
Since COVID-19 has put a temporary halt to this year’s travel plans I’ve been bringing our favorite travel destinations to our home by making the foods we’ve always enjoyed during our travels.
I know that travel restrictions have been eased and many countries are avidly awaiting the return of tourists. But right now our family isn’t quite yet ready to resume our regular travel routines which in the summer usually includes several weeks visiting our daughter in Italy and a cruise around the Med. So until we are ready to resume our normal traveling lifestyle we’ll just have to make do with enjoying homemade dishes from the countries we love to visit.
Recently I’ve had a hankering for Spanish cuisine, it reminds me of fun filled days spent wandering Barcelona or exploring sunny Ibiza and the Canary Islands. So I’ve been putting together some of my favorite Tapas and other Spanish dishes to enjoy with my pitcher of Cava Sangria.
One of our favorites is Spanish Chicken and Rice. It’s pretty easy to make, you use just 1 skillet! I love the taste and smell of the spices used to create this simple dish. I make a seasoning mix to use in this dish, I usually make a jar and keep it on hand to use on other dishes we love. I hope you’ll love it too!
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Spanish Chicken & Rice
6 Chicken thighs – remove the skin
3 Tbs. Olive OIl
1 Cup long grain white rice
2 1/4 cup chicken broth
Spanish Seasoning Mix (recipe below)
Make 1 recipe of Spanish Seasoning Mix
2 Tsp. Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tbs. Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tsp. Chili Powder
1 Tsp. Ground Coriander
1/2 Tsp. Italian Seasoning
Place chicken thighs in a bowl and toss in 2 Tbs. Olive Oil until well coated.
Rub 1/2 of the Spanish Seasoning Mix on the chicken. Be sure you rub it on all sides of the chicken thighs.
Heat remaining Olive Oil in a skillet. Cook chicken about 3 minutes on each side until browned. Remove from heat and set aside. Chicken will not be cooked at this point.
Add rice, chicken broth, and other half of seasoning mix to the skillet. Squeeze 1/2 of the lemon over all and combine well. Place chicken thighs on top of the rice and cover.
Cook for 25 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and chicken is fully cooked.
Garnish with slices of the remaining lemon half and chopped cilantro. Serve hot.
- Instead of long grain rice I sometimes use frozen cauliflower rice. When I do this I reduce the chicken broth to 1 1/4 cups and cook until the chicken is fully done. If it is too watery I remove the lid and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
Torta can be different things depending on the type of cuisine and if the dish is sweet or savory. It can refer to a cake or tart in several countries including Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In Mexico it’s a sandwich. In both Spain and the Philippines it can be an omelette. Confusing, I know.
Well since today I want to make Tapas the word Torta will refer to a Spanish Omelette. Tapas play a big part in Spanish social life. Tapas refer to appetizers or small sized dishes that are served as snacks with beer, wine, or cocktails. Sort of what in Hawaii we call pupus. I love having Tapas, it gives you a chance to sample many different things at a time. When we’re in Spain we usually start the evening at a cafe where I can order a refreshing pitcher of Sangria and an array of Tapas. Many times we make a whole meal out of all the Tapas we order.
At home I sometimes make an assortment of Tapas and call it dinner or I can put together a “Tapas Board” for casual entertaining. Tapas can be just about anything, as long as it’s a small portion.
One of my favorite Tapas is Torta, that Spanish Omelette. It’s probably one of the easiest omelettes to make, but unlike most breakfast omelettes where the filling is folded into scrambled eggs Torta fillings are actually cooked into the egg and it comes out looking like a pie which is then cut into wedges for serving. Served with fresh bread it’s delicious.
Here’s how to make Torta at home. It’s really easy and you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen. Remember you can serve it as an appetizer or make a larger version and serve it for breakfast or lunch. You can even make it into a sandwich, placed in a baguette it’s delicious and filling!
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1 Potato – peeled and sliced very thin (I use a mandolin to slice it)
1/2 Onion thinly sliced
2 Eggs beaten
Heat about 1 tsp. Olive Oil in a frying pan.
Add onions and potatoes. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn.
Cook until onions start to caramelize or turn brown and the potatoes are soft.
Beat Eggs in a small bowl and add potato and onion mixture. Stir well.
Add more Olive Oil to frying pan. I use a 7″ pan to make this omelette if I’m making it for Tapas.
Pour egg mixture into pan.
Cook over medium low heat – you must cook this slowly to avoid burning the omelette. Do not touch the omelette while it’s still liquidy. The omelette will take on the shape of the pan.
Cook until the center is just about dry, it will still a bit soft in the center.
Gently separate the sides of the omelette from the pan.
Using 2 spatulas gently flip the omelette over.
Cook for about a minute then slip on to a serving dish.
Slice into wedges and serve.