I have always been intrigued by cooking over an open fire. There’s nothing like burning wood to infuse every dish with a lovely smoky flavor. A few years ago, when I was the entertaining editor of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME, I hosted a fireside paella party that was featured in the magazine, and I thought that with people itching to get outdoors, it would be a great time to revive the recipe.
While paella is a labor-intensive dish, prep time accounts for most of the work, making the dish relatively easy for the host to assemble once guests arrive. I love giving even the most casual event an exotic flair. Low-slung tables on top of layered Moroccan rugs transported guests to another place. I gathered arty props, including golden Moorish lanterns with delicate filigree cutouts, to decorate the table. A collection of colorful Moroccan tea glasses with votives added twinkle, and for a pop of color, I snipped bright flower heads and scattered them down the table’s center. Hot pink peonies were especially dramatic.
As the fire pit blazed and the sun went down, we sipped pink sangria and watched the flames lick the bubbling paella pan. If you are looking for an excuse to gather an intimate crowd without the fuss of a big meal, paella is your answer.
Annette’s Fireside Paella
You will need:
• 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
• Olive oil
• 1 tablespoon paprika
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 red bell pepper
• 1 green bell pepper
• 2 tablespoons saffron
• 1 pound chorizo, cut into 3-inch pieces
• ½ onion, chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 4 cups Bomba rice (a specialty Spanish rice)
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 1 cup crushed tomatoes
• 2 cups haricots verts, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
• 1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut crosswise into ½-inch rings
• 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
• 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
• ½ package frozen lima beans
• 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
• 2 lemons
Place chicken in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle chicken with paprika and ½ teaspoon salt; turn chicken to coat. Cover chicken and let marinate, refrigerated, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Remove stems, seeds, and ribs from peppers and cut into quarters. Cut quarters crosswise into ¼-inch strips; set aside.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind saffron. Put saffron mixture in a medium bowl and add 2 cups of warm water. Whisk until well combined; set aside.
If using a charcoal grill, make a fire in your grill. When the briquettes are completely covered in gray ash, hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grid and count how many seconds you can comfortably leave it there. When you can only hold it there for a second or two, you have high heat and are ready to cook. (Alternatively, you can cook paella on a stove over high heat.)
Place a 20-inch paella pan with 3-inch sides over heat source. Coat bottom of pan with olive oil and heat until pan is very hot, about 5 minutes. Add chicken thighs and cook, turning, until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add chorizo and cook, turning, until browned, about 3 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and set aside.
Add onions and garlic to pan, and saute until onions are caramelized.
Add rice and saffron water to onion-garlic mixture and stir to coat; cook about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, peppers, and haricots verts. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.
Add chicken, sausage, calamari, and shrimp, and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes more. Add clams and mussels. Cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes, adding more stock as necessary.
Add lima beans and peas and cook until tender, about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice; serve immediately.
Photography by Sarah Dorio
First appeared in Atlanta Magazine’s HOME
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