Paella con Socarrat

When I think of what makes a great Paella, there is no hesitation of what it could be– the “socarrat.” As the rice cooks, absorbing the broth laden with herbs and juices from the meat and seafood, the oil starts to sizzle as the moisture dissipates. At this crucial moment, I turn on the heat to a high setting to start singeing the rice at the bottom of the paellera. A crispy, dark amber layer forms, and with the first bite, one taste of the caramelized saffron-infused broth coating the rice. Many other cultures covet and extol this kind of appreciation for the golden crust: the Iranians have it as Tahdig, the Philippines onomatopoetic as Tutong, and the Chinese a crispy–Guoba.

Cooking notes: Use the lemon zest and sprinkle with a little lemon juice after broiling in the oven before serving. Peas are usually in this dish, unfortunately it’s not a favorite in our household at the moment 😉 I also added some fish sauce for the extra umami flavoring– trust me on this one!


Spanish Gremolata:

1 cup of Parsley

1 whole lemon, juice and zest

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 pinch of salt


2 1/2 cups of Paella Rice

1 quart of Chicken stock

12 oz bottle of Clam stock

1 teaspoonful of Spanish Saffron thread

1 teaspoonful of Spanish Paprika (Pimenton)

1 cup of onion mix (combine 1 medium yellow onion and shallot)

1 whole red bell pepper, diced

1 cup of crushed tomatoes with juices

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

1-2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Meat toppings:

2 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into quarters

1 lbs of mussels

4 pieces of scallops

8-10 pieces of medium sized prawns

1 cup of Spanish chorizo

1/2 cups of fresh green peas (optional)


  • Scrub and clean the Mussels and set aside. Devein and clean the prawns and scallops, salt them, and set aside. Cut the ingredients according to the specified sizes.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine the gremolata ingredients and set aside in another small mixing bowl.
  • In a medium-size saucepan, add the water, chicken broth, and saffron–bring to a light simmer for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the saucepan continue to rest there to keep warm.
  • Heat the oil in a large paella pan or large iron skillet under medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sauté for about 2 minutes on each side to form a light caramelization. Remove from the pan and set aside. Do the same for the chorizo sausage and pancetta, prawns, and scallops.
  • Using the same pan with all the browned bits on the pan, add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onion first followed by the garlic, and lastly, the bell pepper. Sauté for about 15 minutes before adding the tomatoes. Season with the paprika, salt, and pepper, cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the paella rice; cook 1 minute, continually stirring to help absorb all the oil. Stir in the gremolata, and broth mixture. Flavor with fish sauce if desired. Turn the heat back up to bring the rice mixture to a low boil. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring continually. Once the rice is al dente, almost cooked through start adding the clam juice and meat.
  • Start with the chicken and sausage followed by the prawns and scallops, and finally embed the mussels halfway into the rice.
  • Turn the heat to high and cook for about 3-5 minutes, allowing the rice to set and form the crust at the bottom. You will hear a sizzling sound that indicates the socarrat is developing.
Listen to the sizzling of the Paella!
  • Finish the paella under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes before serving. Garnish with sprigs of parsley and lemon wedge.
  • Serve the paella in the pan at the center of your table. Drink with Spanish tempranillo.

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