I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love paella. This Spanish cousin-of-risotto leaves itself wide open to modification and reinterpretation, and so in keeping with my recent interest in Mexican flavors, I decided to focus this paella on a bunch of my favorite green Mexican produce, grabbing peppers, limes, avocados, and tomatillos before seeing where this took me.
I was originally worried this dish would come out almost too green in color, but instead, the rich, chili flavored stock colored the rice with a fantastic brown/amber that made the other components of the paella really pop out visually (and when it comes to paella, appearance matters since you typically serve it straight from the pan).
Discussions about appearance aside, what about the flavor? The paella was delicious! It had a surprisingly full, earthy, nutty, solid foundational flavor brought by a rich chili-centric stock. The tomatillos added pockets of sweet/sour tanginess while the avocado added nice, creamy relief. The poblanos gave a lot of flavor and a good, mild, lingering background heat. The full combination of flavors were fun, lively, and made for a really enjoyable twist on arroz con pollo.
- 2+ lbs chicken thighs
- 3 guajillo chiles
- 2 chiles de arbol
- 1 head garlic
- 2 Tbsp almonds
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 2 poblano peppers
- handful cilantro
- 8 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 leek
- 3 poblano peppers
- 1 chipotles in adobo
- ~1 lb tomatillos
- 1/4 cup sherry
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- sweet paprika
- 2 cups paella-appropriate rice (e.g. valencia or arborio)
- 2-3 hard-boiled eggs
- 1 lime
- 1 pimiento
- 1-2 avocados
Begin by making the stock since this is a strong flavor that is fundamental to the dish.
In a dry pan, toast the stemmed, seeded guajillos and de arbols for roughly 5-10 seconds on each side, pressing flat on the pan. Reconstitute these in warm water for 30 minutes.
While that goes on, dry pan roast the garlic, breaking the head up into cloves, but don’t remove the paper. Cook this over medium-high for 15 minutes, mixing now and then (don’t worry about black spots on the paper). Once cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic flesh out of the paper.
In a food processor or blender, puree the drained, reconstituted chilis, garlic, and (paper-free) almonds. Set this aside.
In a saucepan, simmer the chicken stock for 10 minutes along with 2 diced poblanos and a handful of cilantro. Puree this along with the chili puree from earlier. I originally thought I would strain this mixture, but I wasn’t happy with how much was left behind, so I ultimately threw the solids back in, so I’d recommend you be lazy and don’t bother straining. Set this stock aside.
If you have a paella pan, this is obviously the ideal vessel to cook this dish in. If not, the widest pan you have will do just fine. Begin by warming up the olive oil in the pan.
Chop the chicken up into smallish, bite-sized pieces and rub them with salt, pepper, and allspice. Brown these in the pan on all sides and cook through, somewhere around 10 minutes.
As that goes on, somewhat finely mince the leek and poblano peppers. Add these into the pan once the chicken is cooked through (and keep the chicken in the pan), sautéing for 7-10 minutes or until soft.
While you wait, husk the tomatillos and rinse off that sticky coating. Chop each one into thin wedges (roughly 6-8 pieces per tomatillo). Once time is up, add the tomatillo wedges for a minute. Deglaze the pan with sherry and let it reduce away. Squeeze in the lime juice and add all remaining spices.
Finally, add the rice into the pan. Toss and coat well with the entire contents of the pan before you pour in the stock. Boil this until no longer soupy, but do leave enough liquid for the rice to continue cooking. Figure this will take roughly 5 minutes.
At this point, get your garnishes ready. Arrange thinly sliced lime wedges and pimiento strips on top of the paella however you think looks good. Transfer to a 425°F oven for 15-25 minutes.
There’s still garnish to prepare. Hard boil the eggs (~8 minutes in boiling water, chill in ice water, remove shells) and slice the avocados.
Once the paella is done cooking, remove from the oven and cover with tin foil. Let this sit to steam for 5-10 minutes more before you remove the foil.
Finally, crumble on the hard boiled eggs, arrange the avocado slices, and sprinkle on some minced cilantro.