almost my mother in law's paella

My mother in law doesn't really love to cook. But sometime in the early 90's she was gifted a paella pan. In it's packaging, was a small leaf of paper, printed with a paella recipe. Over the years, she adopted this recipe as one of her go-to recipes for company. A hit among the whole family, I have taken the tattered remains of that little leaflet, and turned it into something similar, yet distinctly my own.

This recipe looks daunting. I know this. But let me tell you a few things about this dish. It's perfect for guests. Perfect. It allows you to prep EVERYTHING hours, or even the day before. It's impressive. Beautiful, filling, crowd pleasing (find me a person who doesn't like RICE?) and most importantly insanely delicious. 

The instructions for this dish are going to be kind of weird. I am going to tell you this right off the bat. There are several stages to making this. But as I mentioned, you don't have to do them all at once. Space them out. Take a break. It will not suffer. I PROMISE.

This recipe is also flexible. I've written it here with several options for substitutions and alternatives. You can also make this with out the chicken, as I do frequently if I am craving paella but not craving 3 kinds of meat. Leave off the shrimp if you want to. Use pork or turkey or EVEN ground chicken if you're feeling weird. It's okay. The spices are what is driving this dish, and as long as you layer all of these flavors, you cannot go wrong. 

Here we go. Buckle up. Get ready to impress the crap out of some people. Fire up your cookin’ pants. Or whatever. :)


3 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp saffron (you CAN make this without saffron, because I know it can be expensive, but use it if at all possible)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon for juicing
Lemon wedges for serving


3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 green pepper (bell pepper or poblano)
1 medium red onion
1 head garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
(optional) 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, pepper, tomatoes, and salt. Stir a few times and turn the heat as low as it goes. Pop a lid on and let this cook. Stir it occasionally to prevent any REAL burning situation, but don't worry if a bit of brown stuff sticks to that bottom. That stuff tastes GOOD. Add the garlic after about 10 minutes. Continue cooking until this mixture has become homogenous (one pasty delicious product). This takes about a half hour. During this time, marinate your chicken. When this is done, pop it in the fridge until later. 


1# chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
lots of cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

Mix all and marinate 30 minutes - 24 hours.


This is optional to make your own chorizo. You can absolutely buy chorizo for this step and cut this process out of the recipe, but this is some damn good chorizo, if you choose to make it.

1# ground turkey (or pork)
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 large shallot minced (can sub 1/2 medium red onion)
1 head of garlic minced, then sprinkled with 1/2 tsp salt, and minced again
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp olive oil, divided

Measure out all spices into a small bowl.

Preheat a saute pan to medium heat. Once hot, add 1 tsp olive oil, and the minced shallot. Cook until soft, add salted garlic and saute another minute, until fragrant. 

Add an additional 1 tsp olive oil, and all the spices. Turn heat to low and cook 1-2 minutes stirring constantly until spices are fragrant but NOT BURNED. This will happen quickly. Keep a close eye and take it off sooner rather than later to be safe. Add the Worcestershire and remove from pan into a large bowl. Add the ground meat of your choice and mix well with your hands to combine. Cover and refrigerate anywhere from 1 hour - 48 hours.


12 thawed shrimp
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
cracked pepper
1.5 tsp olive oil
1.5 cups thawed frozen peas

Mix all of this together in a bowl and marinate 15 minutes.


Preheat a LARGE LARGE LARGE oven-safe pan over high heat until it's nearly smoking.

Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the hot pan.

Add your chorizo and sear it until just browned on one side. Break it up and scoot it to the side of your BIG pan.

Add the chicken. Do not stir this too much. You are looking to create deep flavor here so you don't want to move it around. Just let it sit and develop a nice brown on one side.

Stir it all together, and add in your cooked sofrito mixture. Stir to combine.

Add in your 3 cups of Arborio rice. Stir again to combine.

Squeeze the juice of one lemon on top.

This is the point where you can stuff this whole big pan in your fridge and wait, or you can leave it on your stove for an hour while you get ready for guests. When they arrive, add the stock and continue. It holds at this point for hours or even a day. Just add the stock and continue on as planned whenever you're about 45 mins from eating.

Add in your 6 cups of stock, and the saffron. Pinch the saffron between your fingers to break it up into a powder. Let this mixture come to a boil. At this point, move the paella into a 400 degree oven and cook 30 minutes. During this time, prepare your shrimp and pea topping.

After the paella has been cooking for 30 minutes, add the shrimp and pea topping. Smoosh it down with a spoon so it's buried in the paella slightly. It doesn't need to be completely covered, but being a bit submerged will keep the shrimp from drying out. Cook another 15-20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from oven, and let it rest 5-10 minutes either tented with foil or draped with a clean dish towel.

Serve with fresh lemon wedges and a tangy salad. Watch the praise roll in ;)


To grill this paella, preheat your coals before you start browning the meat. It should be just the right amount of time to get them to a nice glow. I use a chimney to start my coals. I fill it, light it, and just as the paella begins to simmer on the stove, I dump the coals from the chimney unto the grill. Transfer the paella outside to the grill. Close the grill's lid, and vent it just ever so slightly. It takes less time to cook on the grill, so add your shrimp and pea topping at about 10-15 minutes in. It should only take a half hour to cook through.


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