I have made paella a couple of times now and feel rather confident about the preparation. I do ‘cheat’, according to my good friend who is a bit of a culinary snob—we all have our demons, by cooking the rice first in a rice cooker (growing up in very white suburbia, I had no concept of the rice cooker—my wife still looks at me in horror when I recount my childhood memories of Uncle Ben’s instant rice). This certainly speeds up the process and cuts down on the labor. It also helps immeasurably if you have a paella pan (although not necessary).
1 Spanish (or yellow) onion
Pre-cooked rice (I figure it is about 1 cup of uncooked rice per two people, but I always make more so that we have leftovers)
Vegetables (you can really use anything you like here–this time I chopped some raw carrots and a red bell pepper and added some canned corn and frozen peas).
Proteins (again, you can pretty much do what you want here. I used chorizo, chicken [which I seasoned first with salt and pepper], and shrimp. I have also used mussels–but I would suggest you steam those first).
Seasoning–Salt, pepper, and I threw in a little paprika this time.
One can of tomatoes, either whole or diced.
The process is rather easy: Heat up the pan and add some olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and sweat it a bit and add any other veggies that need to soften up. Then add the sausage and chicken, making sure they are cooked through. Add in the rice and tomatoes and any other veggies you have not added. Mix all together and let this sit over medium heat for about five minutes. If you are using shrimp and/or mussels, add them and be sure to cover them with the rice. Cook another five minutes or so until the shrimp is nice and pink. The rice on the bottom should be getting a little burnt by this point–this is the part that my wife really likes–so regulate how much of that you want (I like it, too, but usually give it all to my wife so that she lets me take more of the wine–since, well, I’m an alcoholic).
Definitely a dish you can play with and add whatever you like to it. I was once chastised for adding snow peas since it was not ‘authentic’. Well, I am not getting paid to make it ‘authentic’ so I do not really give a honey badger. Do what you want, you’re the person that is going to eat it.
The wine: Obviously, a red Spanish wine would be great (Rioja, Priorat, etc.), but this dish can really take a wide range (depending on how spicy you make it). Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zin, you name it! Just have fun–it’s PAELLA!