My first paella was a good learning experience. I realized the pan was too big for the flame and the proper rice is essential. I bought two smaller pans and some Bomba rice at La Española and went home and got to work. I wanted paella with scallops, Luisito wanted chicken, so we had to make two!
First, you need to season the pan. Coat it lightly with olive oil, and set over the flame until the pans begins to brown. Now you are ready to start cooking. First, I made a soffrito with tomatoes. I started sauteed finely chopped onions, then added minced garlic, bay leaf, chili de arbol (Suzanne Goin uses the chili in just about everything and it give her food the tiniest heat and really makes it come alive) smoked paprika, ground saffron, and canned chopped tomatoes and their juice. Let this simmer for a while to meld the flavors.
I did this in a separate pan, but I suppose you can do it in the paella pan after browning the meat. For the chicken paella, I browned the chicken in the paella pan, then added the rice, saffron-infused stock, chorizo and soffrito.
For my scallop paella, I toasted the rice slightly then added the rice, stock, soffrito and chorizo. I let these simmer, tasting some rice as they cooked to determine if more stock was necessary. When almost finished, I nestled the scallops in the rice to cook, and put some peas in Luis’ paella. You want the rice to absorb all the liquid and be cooked through. You even want the very bottom to be a little browned – these toasted bits on the bottom are my favorite. Salt and pepper everything along the way.
I think the variations are endless, and you can play around a little with styles and techniques. I do know I will always cook them with smoked paprika and chorizo – these are the two best flavors in the dish.