Grilling paella gives it a rich, smoky flavor and using traditional Bomba rice creates a perfectly crisp rice crust.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS This colorful, flavor-packed Spanish rice dish is a one-pot showpiece that’s perfect for entertaining. Most classic paellas rely on medium-grain rice (often Bomba, a type of rice grown in Valencia and Calasparra) that is cooked in a paella pan. As the rice absorbs liquid, the grains in contact with the pan form a prized caramelized crust known as socarrat. We wanted to develop a recipe that would feature tender-chewy rice strewn with moist chicken, sausage, and shellfish; a uniformly golden, crisp crust; and a reliable cooking method—without requiring any special equipment. While many modern recipes are cooked on the stove or in the oven, paella was originally made outside on the grill, so we started there. A large roasting pan was the ideal vessel, since it was easy to maneuver and its plentiful surface area maximized the amount of crisp rice crust. Building a large grill fire and fueling it with fresh coals (which ignited during cooking) ensured that the heat would last throughout cooking. We streamlined the recipe by using roasted red peppers and tomato paste instead of fresh peppers and tomatoes. Staggering the addition of the proteins was essential to ensuring that each element was perfectly cooked. Grilling the chicken thighs infused them with great smoky flavor and gave them a head start on cooking, and arranging them around the cooler perimeter of the pan helped them stay moist. Nestling the clams and shrimp into the center of the pan allowed them to release their flavorful juices into the rice without overcooking. If littleneck clams are not available, increase the shrimp to 1½ pounds and season the shrimp in step 1 with ½ teaspoon salt. You will need a heavy-duty roasting pan that measures at least 11 by 14 inches for this recipe. If the exterior of your roasting pan is dark, the cooking times will be on the lower side of the ranges given. You can also cook this recipe in a paella pan that is 15 to 17 inches in diameter. Bomba rice is the most traditional rice for this dish, but you can use any variety of Valencia rice. If you cannot find Valencia rice, you can substitute Arborio rice; you will need to reduce the chicken broth amount to 4 cups.
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved crosswise
Salt and pepper
12 ounces jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1¾ teaspoons hot smoked paprika
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4½ cups chicken broth
⅔ cup dry sherry
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
Pinch saffron threads, crumbled (optional)
1 onion, chopped fine
½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped fine
3 cups Bomba rice
1 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed
8 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss shrimp with 1½ teaspoons oil, ½ teaspoon garlic, ¼ teaspoon paprika, and ¼ teaspoon salt in bowl until evenly coated. Set aside.
2. Heat 1½ teaspoons oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add remaining garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic sticks to bottom of saucepan and begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and remaining 1½ teaspoons paprika and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until dark brown bits form on bottom of saucepan, about 1 minute. Stir in 4 cups broth, sherry, clam juice, and saffron, if using. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Remove saucepan from heat and set aside.
3A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter mounded with charcoal briquettes (7 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Using tongs, arrange 20 unlit briquettes evenly over coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
3B. FOR A GAS GRILL Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.
4. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken on grill and cook until both sides are lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes; transfer chicken to plate and clean cooking grate.
5. Place roasting pan on grill (turning burners to medium-high if using gas) and add remaining ¼ cup oil. When oil begins to shimmer, add onion, red peppers, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion begins to brown, 4 to 7 minutes. Stir in rice (turning burners to medium if using gas) until grains are well coated with oil.
6. Arrange chicken around perimeter of pan. Pour chicken broth mixture and any accumulated chicken juices over rice. Smooth rice into even layer, making sure nothing sticks to sides of pan and no rice rests atop chicken. When liquid reaches gentle simmer, place shrimp in center of pan in single layer. Arrange clams in center of pan, evenly dispersing with shrimp and pushing hinge side of clams into rice slightly so they stand up. Distribute chorizo evenly over surface of rice. Cook, moving and rotating pan to maintain gentle simmer across entire surface of pan, until rice is almost cooked through, 12 to 18 minutes. (If using gas, heat can also be adjusted to maintain simmer.)
7. Sprinkle peas evenly over paella, cover grill, and cook until liquid is fully absorbed and rice on bottom of pan sizzles, 5 to 8 minutes. Continue to cook, uncovered, checking frequently, until uniform golden-brown crust forms on bottom of pan, 8 to 15 minutes longer. (Rotate and slide pan around grill as necessary to ensure even crust formation.) Remove from grill, cover with aluminum foil, and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.
Making Grilled Paella
1.GRILL CHICKEN After making cooking liquid, grill chicken until lightly browned on both sides.
2.COOK AROMATICS AND ADD RICE Heat oil in roasting pan on grill and cook onion and roasted red peppers. Stir in rice.
3.ADD PROTEINS Arrange chicken around edge of pan and pour broth mixture over rice. Bring to simmer, then add shrimp and clams to center. Sprinkle chorizo over top.
4.ADD PEAS AND FINISH Sprinkle peas over paella, close grill, and cook until all liquid is absorbed. Continue to cook, uncovered, until uniform golden crust forms on bottom.