I had the privilege of living in Alicante, Spain for a few months in 2002. Alicante is a beautiful little city on the Costa Blanca in southern Spain and while I was there I enjoyed more than my fair share of authentic Spanish Paella…sometimes vegetarian, sometimes with chicken, and most of the time with prawns, mussels, scallops, squid, and whatever other seafood was freshly available. Authentic Paella is a labour of love, slowly cooked in a massive cast iron pan over a grill with finicky ingredients like a special short-grain pearl rice (a specific variety grown in the region near Valencia, Spain) and saffron. This ‘one-pan-wonder’ version of the dish is a staple in our meal plan because it’s simple to make, healthy, gluten-free, and easy to modify according to whatever kind of chicken or seafood you have on hand. And the best part is, there’s only one pan to wash!!
I’ve adapted this recipe from the Dietitians of Canada Great Food Fast cookbook to make it Weight Watchers friendly and to make it even healthier (and yummier!).
2-3 tbsp olive oil (or other oil of your choice)
2 tbsp white wine (optional)
2 chicken breasts
2-3 cups shrimp
1 large onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, sliced thinly
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 cups chicken broth
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 cups brown rice (short grain is best)
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp paprika
a pinch of oregano
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro (optional)
The way to keep this recipe as simple as possible is to prepare all your ingredients ahead of time: Chop your onion, mince your garlic, and slice your bell peppers. I usually use green bell peppers for this recipe because I have a strange obsession with making sure the colours of foods in a recipe are balanced, and since this recipe contains tomatoes and turmeric I’d have a hard time using red or yellow bell peppers. However, if that’s what you have on hand I’m sure they would taste just fine!
Slice your chicken breasts by butterflying them first (place your hand on top of the chicken breast and slice horizontally straight into the middle until you can unfold the chicken breast and its width doubles), and then slicing thin pieces. Whenever you’re slicing previously frozen raw meat for a recipe like this (mine was), it’s a good idea not to completely defrost it. Partially frozen meat is much easier to slice thinly than meat that’s been defrosted completely. And if you don’t happen to have chicken breasts, chicken thighs would work just as well in this recipe.
Once your chicken has been sliced, ensure your shrimp has been completely defrosted and rinsed. Pat it dry with some paper towel to remove excess water.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. While the skillet is heating, season the chicken breast slices with sea salt and pepper and 1/2 tsp paprika. Add 1 tbsp of your oil to the pan and after the oil is heated, add the chicken and cook until browned. Be careful not to turn the chicken too often. This prevents the browning process (which adds flavour).
When the chicken is fully cooked, remove it to a bowl and place the pan back on the heat. Add 1 tbsp of your oil and when it’s heated you can throw in the shrimp. While they’re cooking, season the shrimp with the garlic powder and a pinch of pepper (if you wish). You’ll know they’re done when they turn pink, and they can be removed to the same bowl as the chicken.
Next, add the last tablespoon of your oil to the pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the onions soften slightly. And now for the fun part! Add the few tablespoons of white wine to the pan. It will start bubbling vigorously right away, so stir it around with the onions and garlic and let the wine soften the browned bits (leftover from the chicken and shrimp) stuck to the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have any wine on hand, a few tablespoons of chicken broth will do the trick. Once you’ve deglazed the pan, add the rice, tomatoes (in their juice! Don’t drain them!), chicken broth, and spices.
Once it starts to boil, turn down the heat just slightly and simmer (covered) for about 15-20 minutes.
Feel free to throw in your bell peppers at any time while the mixture is simmering. Since we have two small children I added the bell peppers right away in order to make sure they were soft. If you prefer them only slightly tender, leave the peppers out at this stage.
The mixture will reduce considerably after 15-20 minutes. At this time, add the chicken and shrimp (and the peppers if you haven’t yet) and continue simmering for 4-6 more minutes, or until rice is tender. Add salt and pepper to your taste (approx. 1/4 tsp each). The amount of salt you add will largely depend on what type of chicken broth you used; mine was homemade broth that contained no salt, so I added just under 1/2 tsp. If yours is store-bought, consider the amount of sodium in the broth before adding salt.
Garnish with a little bit of chopped cilantro if you wish, and serve!
Doesn’t it look delicious??
This recipe makes 6 large servings and each serving is only 10 Weight Watchers Points Plus!
I hope you enjoy! Let me know in the comments below what you’re cooking this week!