Paella (made with risotto rice).

Paella is one of those amazingly elegant dishes that often is accompanied by a disclaimer on restaurant menus that it requires a longer wait time. And that wait is so worth it, when you have a good paella where the rice is cooked perfectly, the seafood is abundant, and the seasoning melds it all together.

Until a friend blew me away with a home-cooked paella last year, I had never really thought about what it takes to prepare. Recently when I was hosting my own dinner party, I decided to experiment. I walked over to Granville Island Public Market and bought some fresh seafood — jumbo prawns, clams, and mussels. From now on, I’ll stop right there with the ingredients and stick to seafood only. However, for this dish, I also included some chorizo and drumsticks.

My first step was to brown the chicken and chorizo in a pan with olive oil. No seasoning is needed at this point, you simply want to ensure the meat gets some additional cooking time to ensure it’s fully cooked through.

While that was cooking, I soaked some saffron strands in 750ml of chicken broth. You can choose any flavoring or vegetable broth. I personally did not opt for a low sodium broth, but many people find the rice can quickly become too salty if you’re not careful.

Next step was to prep all the vegetables. I sliced some leeks, and finely chop some jalapeno pepper (optional) and red bell pepper and set those aside.

Next step was to saute the base flavors of this dish — onion and tomato. I used one full onion chopped coarsely with a handful of diced Roma tomatoes.

In a sauce pan, I cooked these with olive oil and seasoning until the onions were fully translucent and the tomatoes were breaking down into a bit of a sauce.

In the same pan, on top of the base sauce, I added the rice. For my paella, I chose to use risotto rice (arborio) instead of paella rice (bomba). This was purely because I had it on hand and I like my paella rice a little more moist than dry. I found a great tip online that says to use 2 cups of broth per cup of arborio rice, and 3 cups of broth per cup of bomba rice.

Whichever rice you go with, stir it into the sauce for a few minutes until the rice starts to develop a little translucency. At this point, you add in your saffron-infused broth that’s been sitting for about 20-30 minutes. Cover the pan and let it cook for a few minutes so the rice is settling nicely into the broth and sauce and absorbing all the liquids. At this point, you can add in some of the other vegetables — leeks, spring onions, red peppers. Also any seasoning you want in the dish should be added here — pimenton, salt, pepper, garlic.

Nestle the chicken and chorizo onto the rice, and cover the pan. Continue cooking on medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. During this time, be careful not to stir the rice much.

During this time, you’ll want to scrub your mussels and clams and clean off any parts of the shrimp you don’t want in the dish. Soak the mussels and clams in water for about 20 minutes until they’re ready to go into the dish.

After the rice has been cooking for about 45 minutes, you’ll see it is nearly cooked. At this point, add in some sweet peas and top off the rice with the seafood and a few wedges of lemon. Cover the pan again for another 10-15 minutes on medium-low while the seafood cooks through.

What you end up with is a great dish full of flavors prepared in just about 90 minutes including prep time. I can’t wait to make this dish again and was so pleased that my guests liked it as well — enough to take home leftovers!

Serve with a wedge of lemon and some chopped parsley.

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Total cook time, approximately 1 hour plus 30 minutes to prep.

750 ml of chicken broth
4 chicken drumsticks
2 chorizo links
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek
1 jalapeno pepper
1 onion
3 roma tomatoes
1.25 cups arborio rice
1 tablespoon saffron
1 cup mussels
1/2 cup clams
1/4 cup sweet peas
1 tablespoon parsley
4 large shrimp
2 wedges lemon

Makes 6 servings.

Calories: approx 440 per serving

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