Recipe of the Week: Cuban Paella

Photo by jimbrickett

Paella was initially a rice dish that originated in Valencia on the east coast of Spain. The origins of this historical dish come from it's name paella through which some say is a variant of the Arabic word "biqiyah", which means leftovers. While there are three different variations of this meal, this is the seafood version of which carried over to Cuba. It's both very filling, and absolutely delicious. Enjoy! 

Cuban Paella 

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour 25 minutes 

Yield: 8 servings


1/2 cup olive oil (more or less)

1 cup diced ham

2 1/2 cups onion, diced

1 1/2 cups green bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2 cups red bell pepper, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

3 1/2 cups parboiled rice

4 cups chicken broth

3/4 cup red wine

dash of Bijol powder

4 cans smoked clams or oysters with oil

2 teaspoons salt

2 pounds large raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 1/2 pound scallops

1/2 pound crabmeat, frozen leg sections cut in pieces

4-8 medium lobster tails, meat removed from shell and cut in bite-size pieces

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1 red or green bell pepper sliced and used as a garnish

1 cup green peas frozen

12 fresh clams or mussels in the shell (optional) 

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the ham. Remove ham and set aside.Place  the onion,  and green / red peppers, in the remaining oil and cook until the onions are clear. Add garlic and sauté briefly
  2. In a large covered pot, add the broth, wine, smoked clams/oysters, onion/pepper mixture and Bijol powder.
  3. Fry chicken pieces in the remaining oil, until browned on both sides. Remove chicken and set aside.
  4. Add the chicken, ham, and rice to your pot. You should now have everything in the pot except the shrimp, lobster, scallops, and crab meat.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer on the stove for 30 to 40 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked. (The rice should be a slightly wet, but not too soupy at this point.)
  6. While the rice is cooking, sauté all of the seafood in small batches and make sure not to overcrowd the pan.
  7. While sauteing the seafood, make sure to undercook it just a bit. Shrimp and lobster will be pink; scallops will become white and less translucent and crab meat is usually pre-cooked. Remove each batch as you go and keep the seafood covered and warm so that it does not dry out.
  8. If you have fresh clams and/or mussels, now is a good time to steam them in a little water and wine until they open. Simply steam them in a covered saucepan just until heated through.
  9. Once the rice mixture is completely cooked and all of the seafood has been sautéed, gently fold them together and then spoon everything into a round flat pan suitable for serving.
  10. Garnish the top of the dish with crab leg sections, green peas, lobster tail shells, slices of green or red bell pepper, clams, and mussels (in the shell.)
  11. Once assemlbed, place the dish in a preheated 350 degree oven for five minutes. This will combine all of the flavors nicely... just make sure not to overcook. 
  12. Once you've assembled the paella in the cazuela, place the dish in a preheated 350ºF oven for five minutes only, just long enough to meld the flavors and heat through. Do not overcook!

Now serve and enjoy!