Julia Child’s Paella a l’Americaine was one of my mom’s signature dishes. Made for special occasions, we loved to dive into the pan full of chicken, seafood, spicy chorizo and rice!
This impressive, multifaceted one dish meal is a Spanish classic and perfect for entertaining. Your guests will be thrilled with every flavorful bite of this Seafood Paella Recipe with Chicken!
Paella a l’Americaine
My mom discovered this Paella a l’Americaine recipe back in the day when our television only had 4 stations. And NO remote control. She watched the Galloping Gourmet and The French Chef, who happened to be Julia Child. One Saturday, Julia dazzled my mother by demonstrating her seafood paella recipe with chicken.
After the show aired, my mom promptly wrote the TV station. They then mailed her the recipe. How quaint is that? I treasure that original typed copy.
My mom was a terrific and adventurous cook and my dad was a willing guinea pig. He would eat absolutely anything except for one dish. He was haunted by memories of his mother’s oxtail soup. Granted, he lived through the depression and there may have been some mighty pitiful oxtails that went into my Grandma’s soup pot.
When my mom tested out wontons, egg rolls, moussaka, and paella on the family, we gobbled it all down. Paella was saved for special occasions, and I make the same seafood paella recipe that my mom shared with our family decades years ago.
What is Paella?
Paella is a Spanish dish that hails from Valencia, a coastal city. The earliest version, from the early 1800’s, was made with rabbit, chicken, snails, 3 types of beans plus the one constant, saffron flavored rice. It was cooked over an open fire, recipes have been adapted for home and restaurant sized portions.
You can put whatever you want in your paella as long as it has four crucial items: rice, saffron, garlic and paprika. The sofrito of vegetables like onions and peppers cooked in oil is also crucial for flavor development.
Julia Child’s Paella
Julia Child’s version of paella features ingredients that can easily be found at most American grocery stores. Each region in Spain has their own take and the recipes often contain squid, fish, olives, chick peas and even the aforementioned rabbit. My mom has been gone less than a year, but I felt her love enveloping me as I cooked up this dish.
Like my mom, I love serving this gorgeous paella recipe for dinner parties and family gatherings. Add a crisp green salad, crusty bread and an Easy Sangria to complete the menu. Consider purchasing a paella pan if you’re going to make this paella a l’Americaine again and again. Otherwise, a good substitute is a 3 quart straight sided stainless steel pan. For the best paella, your pan will need a large surface area. Non-stick and cast iron pans are not recommended.
Julia Child’s Paella a l’Americaine
Very slightly adapted from Julia Child’s Paella a l’Americaine.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings
- Category: Entree, Seafood, Chicken, Pork
- Method: Sauting
- Cuisine: Spanish
- 1 pound fresh chorizo sausage
- 1/2 pound bacon, sliced into small strips
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 cup sliced red bell pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 small bone-in chicken breasts
- 4 chicken drumsticks
- 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
- 4 1⁄2 cups chicken broth
- 1⁄2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 bay leaf
- 1⁄2 teaspoon thyme
- 1⁄2 teaspoon oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups imported arborio rice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound large shrimp, deveined and shelled
- 24 mussels
- 2-3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced, and large diced
- 2 cups frozen green peas, defrosted
- 2 lemons, quartered
- Parsley, minced
- Prick sausages with a fork and steam in a pan with a little water till cooked through. Cool and slice.
- Add sausages and bacon to a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook until lightly browned; stir in onions and peppers.
- Cover and cook slowly until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and cook another minute till fragrant.
- Remove all ingredients to a heatproof bowl with a slotted spoon, then transfer fat to a paella pan.
- Dry chicken pieces in paper towels, heat fat in the paella pan, and brown chicken on all sides.
- Add the reserved vegetables and sausages, wine, chicken broth and seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste (will vary depending on saltiness of your chicken broth). Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes (chicken won’t be completely cooked at this point. If making ahead, this is where you can stop, cool and refrigerate. Bring to a boil before continuing).
- Sprinkle in the rice, mixing it down into the liquid with a spoon.
- Boil rapidly 5 to 6 minutes, uncovered. Do not stir the rice.
- While mixture is boiling, mix shrimp with the lemon juice, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- When the rice is swollen and begins to rise to the surface, rapidly push the shrimp, tail end down, into the rice and add the mussels, hinge-side down. Cook for a few minutes, flipping shrimp as needed.
- Again, do not stir, simply push these ingredients down into the rice with a spoon.
- Reduce heat and let paella simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes, or more, uncovered, until rice is just tender–slightly al dente. Sprinkle with peas and tomatoes the last 4 or 5 minutes. You may briefly cover the pan with a lid if needed to cook the seafood.
- To serve, sprinkled with minced parsley and have lemon quarters available to pass.
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