Rustic Chicken Paella with Wicked Winona

Paula: Making paella on the grill over a wood-infused fire is so much more than a meal. It’s dinner theater seasoned with Spanish chorizo and saffron. It’s a riot of flavors and textures, and a feast that demands your attention, but as long as you’re organized and have the ingredients prepped and at the ready, you can pull it off while chatting with friends and stealing sips of red wine. I love how it comes together in stages--sizzling chicken until golden brown, sauteeing aromatic vegetables, simmering broth and rice--all to the expectation of those gathered around the table.

Paella is often a Sunday night or special occasion fare. But last night I was reminded that it’s actually manageable on a weeknight (especially if you’re observing a casual Madrid-approach to the dinner hour). Paella is often called a lifetime pursuit, so even if you don’t nail the perfect socarrat (rice that gets caramelized and crusty on the bottom of the pan) the first time, your game will improve each time you make it.

Rustic Chicken Paella with Smoky Spices

Serves 6 to 8

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Wicked Winona (or The Usual)
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 12 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced into rounds or half moons
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ pound green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 cup frozen Fordhook beans, thawed
  • 1 pound ripe chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped parsley, divided
  • 8 -10 cups chicken stock
  • Generous pinch (about ½ teaspoon) saffron threads
  • 2 1⁄4 cups Spanish Bomba rice
  • 8 large head-on shrimp
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Hot sauce, for serving

Place chicken thighs in a baking dish or sealable plastic bag, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, and sprinkle with Wicked Winona seasoning. Use your hands to evenly distribute the spices and set aside to marinate at room temperature while you light the grill (or refrigerate up to 1 day in advance).

Prepare a charcoal grill for one-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire or heat a gas grill to high. Carefully wipe the preheated grill grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, place a couple chunks of wood on the periphery of the fire and vent the grill for smoking.

Place a 15-inch paella pan over direct heat and pour in enough olive oil to lightly coat (about 3 tablespoons). Add the chicken thighs, skin-side down, and cook until nicely browned, about 4 to 5 minutes per side (rotating pan as necessary for even cooking). Transfer the chicken to baking dish and set aside. Add the rosemary stems and chorizo and cook, stirring, until lightly crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, green beans, and lima beans and cook, stirring, for a couple minutes, until the vegetables are coated with seasonings and oil. Add the tomatoes and ½ cup parsley and continue to cook until the vegetables have softened and the tomato juices have reduced slightly, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and saffron and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the rice and spread it into an even layer in the pan, stirring once. Nestle the chicken thighs into the rice, close the grill and cook, rotating pan and stirring only when necessary for even cooking, until half of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Nestle the shrimp and mussels, hinge-side down, into the rice. Continue to cook, flipping the shrimp halfway through, until the shrimp and shellfish are cooked through, the clams and mussels open wide, and the liquid is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and allow the paella to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Top with remaining parsley and serve the paella warm, straight from the pan using a large metal spoon to scrape up any socarrat (crunchy crust) from the bottom. Pass the lemon wedges and hot sauce.


Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe, and infamous grill nerd and co-owner of PK Grills, Scott Moody.

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