It's difficult to duplicate the experience of cooking paella with Manuelo outdoors in Valencia over burning embers of wood from orange trees, but you could do it on a grill on high heat. Most important, buy a proper pan (available at www.latienda.com), cook it a little longer than you think, and don't stir! If you are cooking it indoors on the stove, be generous with the supersmoky pimentón since it will provide the requisite almost-but-not-quite-burned flavor.
Remember, paella is a blank canvas. You can add any fish, meat or vegetables into your paella according to your preferences. Add meats like sausage, chicken and chorizo; fish like prawns, calamari, clams, mussels and scampi; and vegetables like peppers, onions, carrots, peas, celery and zucchini.
Makes 6 servings
* 10 small to medium chicken drumsticks
* 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 cups medium shrimp , enough for about 5 per person
* 1 medium Spanish onion , cut into 1/4-inch dice
* 1/2 cup pureed ripe tomatoes
* 1 tsp. kosher salt , or to taste
* 1 tsp. saffron threads
* 2 Tbsp. sweet pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
* 4 quarts chicken stock
* 2 cups bomba or other shortgrain rice
* 1 pound Manila clams , scrubbed
* 1 cup freshly shucked peas
* 10 spears pencil asparagus , stalks cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch thick slices
* 1-inch pieces of sausage
Preheat an oven to 400°. Place the drumsticks on a baking sheet and season all over with salt and extra-virgin olive oil. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes and set aside.
In the meantime, heat a 14- to 18-inch paella pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until smoking. Add the shrimp and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Push the onions into the center of the pan and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the salt around the edges of the pan.
Add the tomato puree, stirring it into the onions, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the remaining salt, the saffron, pimentón and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to distribute it evenly. Add clams, drumsticks, arranging them nicely throughout the pan. Then add the peas and asparagus and bring the stock back to a boil, and cook, without stirring, for 10 minutes. Taste for salt and add it if needed, then cook, again without stirring, for 10 more minutes, or until the liquid is almost completely absorbed and the pan starts to make a crackling noise (don't worry, this is what you want).
Remove from the heat and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.