Updated: May 20, 2019
Since moving to Atlanta, just over five years ago, Ricky has always had to go to a local bar to watch his favorite team, Seattle Seahawks since the game never airs on the local stations here. He dresses up in all of his favorite Seahawks gear because if he doesn't "they might lose." (Someone needs to tell him that his theory is not working.)
He's quite the fan and, at one point, thought he was the only fan in Atlanta until one day, when he met a little friend (also dressed in Seahawks gear) at that same bar. They've been Seahawks besties ever since and, it turns out, his new friend has a lovely wife from Spain and two amazing little kids. We've embraced their friendship over the years and enjoyed lots of holiday gatherings together that include love, laughter, thoughtful discussions and ... the most delicious Spanish paella.
We've had paella at their house for Christmas parties, summer parties and we even had it at our recent Super Bowl party where it was a huge hit. Paella is the perfect party food because it makes so much, plus it's pretty simple to make!
Here's a modified version of the recipe they shared from one of their favorite Spanish cookbooks. I'm still waiting for grandma's home-cooked recipe. I bet it's out of this world!
Makes approximately 10-12 servings
1 15 oz can chickpeas, reserve the liquid
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp crumble saffron thread
2-4 Tbsp olive oil (or veggie broth if oil free)
4 Tbsp pine nuts
16 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp minced parsley
6-8 cups spinach leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin powder
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp smoked paprika (if you don't prefer a smokey flavor, use 4 tsp sweet paprika in place of smoked paprika which can be quite strong)
2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional if you prefer spicy)
3 cups Spanish or Arborio short grain rice (I used short grain brown rice)
salt and pepper to taste (I probably ended up using about 3/4-1 tsp of salt for the entire dish. I didn't measure but was sprinkling throughout and tasting along the way.)
How to Make
Preheat oven to 400 degrees for gas or 450 degrees for electric oven.
Combine in a large soup pot: chickpea brine, veggie broth, wine and saffron. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 5 minutes.
In a large wok or paella pan (should measure about 17-18 inches wide as you'll be adding everything to this and placing it in the oven to bake), heat the olive oil or veggie broth.
Add pine nuts on medium heat and brown lightly for 1-2 minutes.
Add garlic, onion, peppers and cook for about 2-3 minutes until onions are translucent. I added a bit of sea salt here.
Add tomatoes, parsley and spinach. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until spinach is wilted. I added another sprinkle of sea salt here as well.
Stir in the paprika, oregano, cumin, and red pepper. Then add the rice, coating it well with the pan mixture.
Pour broth mixture into veggie mixture and bring to a boil. Add additional salt as needed after tasting broth.
Add chickpeas, continue to boil, stirring the mixture until the rice has absorbed some of the broth (about 5 minutes).
Transfer the wok or paella dish to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 12 minutes in a gas oven or 15-20 minutes in an electric oven.
Remove from oven, cover with lid or foil and let sit for 10 minutes until the rice is fully cooked.
Taste for additional salt and pepper.
The original recipe didn't call for lemon but I added a squeeze to my serving and felt that it really brightened the dish. You could also add green onion and/or cilantro. I don't believe that cilantro is a typical Spanish culinary ingredient, but it was pretty delicious in my leftovers the next day. Let me know what else you might add!