I found myself in a conundrum the other night, having decided on making paella for dinner, but finding that I didn’t really have the time to wait for the rice to cook. Since I was already making “mixed” paella, a version virtually unknown in paella’s homeland of Valencia (but popular elsewhere in Spain), I decided it wouldn’t matter if I ditched the rice in favor of a quicker-cooking grain. I haven’t experimented enough with other grains to know which would offer a good texture, so I chose Israeli couscous, a more pillowy, chewy version of the small-grained pasta.
The original Valencian paella was a rice dish prepared in a large, shallow pan that included fresh butter beans, tomatoes, saffron, paprika, olive oil, and snails. Over time, additional meats such as chicken, rabbit, and duck could be added and still considered authentic. Valencians who live on the Mediterranean coast make a seafood paella, which replaces land proteins with any combination of shrimp, lobster, mussels, and cuttlefish. Spaniards living outside of Valencia mixed these two forms, and chefs in Spain and worldwide have now created paellas with any number of different vegetables and proteins. The version I threw together is below.
Mixed Paella (4-6 servings)
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 lb. fresh chorizo, crumbled
- 2 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, diced
- 1 1/2 tsp. each paprika and smoked paprika, or to taste
- 1 pinch saffron
- 3-4 c. chicken broth – start with 3 cups and add additional broth if needed; I used 4 cups and it was a bit too brothy
- 1/2 lb. raw, shelled shrimp (about 4 per person)
- 1 1/2 c. Israeli couscous
- 3/4 c. frozen peas
- 3/4 c. frozen spinach
- Heat olive oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for several minutes, or until softened. Add chorizo and break up with a wooden spatula. Cook about five minutes, or until cooked through.
- Add chicken, and cook another three minutes. Add spices, and cook a minute or two, until fragrant.
- Add chicken broth and bring up to a boil. Add shrimp, couscous, peas, and spinach. Cook 8-15 minutes or until couscous is done and broth has evaporated.