Mushroom and Chicken Paella (Paella de Setas y Pollo)

Makes 4 to 6 main course or at least 8 first course servings
Time: 1 hour

During the hour José and I spent around his huge paellera - a paella pan - he made a number of outrageous claims. A certain chef (surprisingly, a friend of his) was "the best chef in the world, no question." The salt in Spain was saltier because Americans, you see, are savvy entrepreneurs who put less "salt" in the salt so you have to buy more. And his paella was cooking unevenly, not because the stovetop it was on was uneven but "because here in Washington we have a problem with the soil. In Spain, the ground is perfectly flat."

Those quips, plus his vociferous knife-in-hand defense of the pelicula-the glossy residue of evaporating liquid that develops on the paella as it cooks-kept me in stitches.

When he wasn't making outlandish claims, José gave me some great pointers about paella making: For one thing, he said-and it's probably true-that a thin layer of rice across the pan produces rice with the best texture; it never becomes soupy. He also believes in oversalting slightly, because rice soaks up so much salt. And, finally, he nearly killed me when I threatened to touch, or even breathe on, the paella during the last 10 minutes of boiling, when the precious pelicula formed, claiming I would ruin the dish.

This last one seemed apocryphal, but whatever; his paella is great. For a less rigid-and by José's standards, less authentic-paella, see my Fast and Easy Shrimp "Paella”.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 or 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dried porcini, reconstituted in 2 cups hot water 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, preferably mixed
8 ounces chorizo, chopped
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons pimenton (Spanish paprika), or to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups Spanish or Arborio rice
4 to 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (page 249)
Pinch saffron
Salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in the widest pan you own (or use a roasting pan straddling two burners) over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken thighs skin sides down and cook them, flipping once or twice, until the skin is deeply browned, about 10 minutes.

2. When the meat is browned, add the onions and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they soften and start to take on a little color, then add the garlic and bay leaf and cook 1 minute more, until the garlic is golden.

3. Drain the soaked mushrooms and add them, along with the fresh mushrooms, to the pan; cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have wilted slightly and begun to give up some of their liquid. Add the chorizo and pimentón and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds more. Add the wine and reduce by half, about 10-15 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the rice, scattering it across the pan in as even a layer as possible. Add the stock and saffron and season heavily with salt. When the stock reaches a boil, set a timer for 20 minutes, and adjust the heat so the paella cooks at a gentle simmer. When the timer rings, check the rice-if it's still crunchy on the top, add a little more liquid and cook a few minutes longer. When the rice is ready, turn the heat off, let the paella rest for 2 minutes, and serve immediately.

bunch more briquettes and wait a while) and brown the ribs on both sides. Be very careful; they will likely still have enough fat on them to flare up and burn, ruining all your hard work in an instant (believe me, I've done it several times). Watch them constantly and move them frequently. Browning will take about 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.