Stovetop Chicken Paella
The rendered fat from browned chicken thighs seared in the pan before cooking the vegetables seasons every part of this paella.
My loose interpretation of Spanish paella infuses every element of the dish with flavor by adding a spice blend at each stage of the cooking process and then simmering the whole mix with the same blend. Bomba rice, a short-grain rice from Spain and the foundation for Spanish paella, absorbs liquid—and therefore seasonings—more readily than other varieties. You can find it online or in well-stocked markets. Also available online are paella pans. You don’t need one, but it’s the only way to get the signature socarrat crust on the bottom of the rice, a thin, crackly, browned layer that crisps on the pan’s steel base. Even without the socarrat, this dish will be tasty.
Chicken Paella with Red & Green Peppers
Lior Lev Sercarz, adapted from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons Moruno N21, divided
2 tablespoons pimentón, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups Bomba rice
1 cup cooked chickpeas, homemade or canned, drained, and rinsed
Season the chicken thighs with salt, one tablespoon Moruno and 1 tablespoon pimenton on both sides and set aside. Coat a large sauté pan with oil (2 tablespoons) and heat over low heat. If you have a paella pan, use it here. Place the thighs skin- side down in the oil and cook until the skin is browned, about 15 minutes, then flip and cook for 5 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.
Add the onion to the chicken fat, scraping any browned bits up from the bottom of the pan. Stir well, spread in an even layer, and, if using a sauté pan, cover. Cook until the onion is just translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add the red and green bell peppers, 1 tablespoon each of Moruno and pimenton, plus a pinch of salt, and stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are bright, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover (if using a sauté pan), and cook until the peppers are almost tender, about 3 minutes. If the vegetables seem like they're burning, add a little more oil.
Raise heat to high. Add the tomatoes, rice, 5 cups cold water, and a large pinch of salt. Stir well until it's all incorporated then nestle the chicken thighs in skin side up and add any juices from the plate. Cook for 11 minutes.
Lower the heat, scatter the chickpeas on top, and cook for 9 more minutes. If you want to get a nice crunchy soccarat bottom increase the heat and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.