Paella puts people in a party mood. It is a very colorful creation and a little messy to eat, so guests seem to relax and throw themselves into the spirit of the dish. Be sure to provide nutcrackers for all, a large bowl for the empty shells, and then warm wet towels or bowls of lemon water and towels for the after-dinner cleanup.
Although it may seem complicated and time consuming, most of the work can be done well ahead of time and the dish assembled in the last ten minutes. The following recipe serves six, but you may increase it at will. The more, the merrier!
First, marinate the chicken thighs: Combine the oregano, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a bowl or mortar; mash to a paste with the back of a spoon or the pestle. Whisk in the olive oil. Rub the marinade over the chicken thighs and refrigerate overnight.
To cook the artichokes, heat
To cook the lobsters or crabs (or both if you are feeling extravagant), heat a large pot of water to boiling. Salt the water and add the lobsters or crabs. Cook the lobsters 6 minutes and the crabs 10 minutes. Immediately remove them from the water and place in an ice bath to cool.
If using lobsters, cut off the tails and cut the meat into sections keeping it in the shell. Crack the claws and reserve the legs for garnish. Store in the refrigerator.
If using crabs, remove the top shell and save the juices. Remove and discard the gills and tail pieces. Crack the claws with a mallet and cut the bodies into 4 pieces each. Rinse the bodies well. Store in the refrigerator.
Shell and devein the shrimp, keeping the tails intact if you like, and refrigerate. Scrub the clams and keep them covered in water in the refrigerator. Beard and scrub the mussels and keep them covered with ice in the refrigerator up to 1 day.
Up to 6 hours before serving, cook the chicken: Heat
To make the base, heat about
Heat the water in a large pot to boiling. Add
Meanwhile, warm the wine in a small saucepan and add the saffron. Let stand at least 10 minutes. Melt the butter and stir in the saffron infusion. Coat a shallow baking pan, such as a lasagne pan, with some of the melted butter. Pour in the rice and drizzle with the remaining butter. Cover the pan with foil and bake 25 minutes. Keep warm.
To assemble the paella, place the clams or mussels in a large wide pan. Thin the base with more chicken stock if necessary, heat to boiling, and add half to the clams or mussels. Cover and cook over high heat until all the shells open. Combine the chicken thighs, lobsters or crabs, artichokes, chorizo, shrimp, and remaining base in a second large wide pan. Simmer covered over medium heat until heated through, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the clams or mussels and peas if using during the last 2 minutes. Garnish with the little lobster legs and the red pepper strips.
Spoon the rice into individual serving bowls or a very large platter, then spoon the chicken and seafood mixture over top. Serve at once and enjoy!
© 1998 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.