Paella, the classic grilled rice dish from Spain, is perfect for a barbecue because everything cooks together in one pan and absorbs the smoky flavor from the fire. The key to this dish is the crusty caramelized layer of rice, called socarrat, that forms on the bottom of the pan. While the combination of ingredients ranges from the traditional rabbit and snails to vegetables and seafood, this version, known as paella mixta, contains seafood, Spanish chorizo, and chicken. For more Spanish flair, sip on glasses of sangría while the paella’s on the grill.
Special equipment: This dish is named after the two-handled pan it’s cooked in. You’ll need a 15-inch paella pan because its wide surface area ensures that the rice cooks in a thin, even layer.
What to buy: Spanish chorizo (not to be confused with its Mexican counterpart) is a dried, smoked, ready-to-eat pork sausage. It can be mild or spicy, and is found at gourmet markets or online. If you can’t find Spanish chorizo, you can sub in some andouille sausage.
Paella rice, sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia, is a white short-grain rice prized for its ability to stay firm when cooked. It can be found in gourmet grocery stores. If you can’t find paella rice, Arborio rice can be substituted, although the texture will be slightly softer when cooked.
Game plan: If making paella on the grill is not an option, try this recipe for a stovetop, oven-finished paella.
This dish was featured as part of our Father’s Day Grilled Paella Feast.
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- Difficulty: Medium
- Total: 2 hrs
- 2 medium, ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
- 16 large shrimp (about 12 ounces), peeled and deveined
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón dulce)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 8 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
- 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
- 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 large pinch saffron threads
- 2 cups paella rice (about 1 pound), sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the shrimp and chicken
- 4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth
- 16 mussels, manila clams, or a combination, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 2 medium lemons, cut into 8 wedges each, for serving
- Core and halve the tomatoes. Grate the flesh side of each half on the large holes of a box grater set over a medium bowl, stopping when you get to the skin. Discard the skins. You should have about 3/4 cup of tomato pulp and juice; set aside.
- Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, add 1/4 teaspoon of the paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and refrigerate.
- Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.
- Heat an outdoor grill to high (about 450°F to 550°F). Place a 15-inch paella pan on the grill, cover, and heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo to the pan, close the grill, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is starting to brown and the fat is rendered, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to a large bowl; set aside.
- There should be a thin layer of rendered fat in the pan. If there’s not enough, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan in a single layer, close the grill, and sear, stirring occasionally, until both sides of the chicken pieces are golden brown, about 6 minutes total. (You will need to rotate the pan occasionally on the grill to evenly distribute the heat.) Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the chorizo; set aside.
- Add the onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, close the grill, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed on a gas grill or moving the paella pan to a cooler part of a charcoal grill so that the onions don’t burn. Add the garlic, remaining 3/4 teaspoon paprika, and saffron, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice and cook until the mixture has slightly darkened in color, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and measured salt and stir to coat in the tomato mixture.
- Add the broth and stir to combine. Arrange the rice mixture in an even layer. Distribute the reserved chorizo and chicken over the rice, adding any accumulated juices from the bowl. (Do not stir the rice from this point on.)
- Close the grill and bring the mixture to a lively simmer. Continue to simmer, checking occasionally, until the rice grains have swelled, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the rice begins to make a crackling sound, about 12 minutes. (Make sure to rotate the pan occasionally to evenly distribute the heat, and adjust the heat as needed to maintain a lively simmer.)
- Arrange the reserved shrimp and the shellfish (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Close the grill and cook until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the grill, cover with foil, and let stand for 5 minutes. Before serving the paella, discard any unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with the parsley. Serve with the lemon wedges.