Just this last Sunday January 6th, many countries across Europe and across Central and South America celebrated Epiphany, which celebrates the travels of the 3 wise men on their journey toward Bethlehem to visit the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The name Epiphany is the name of the holiday in the English language, in Spanish it is Día De Los Reyes (Day of the Kings, or Kings’ Day). It goes by similar translations in other languages.
Día De Los Reyes in Spain
We will focus on Dia De Los Reyes in Spain, it is the biggest Holiday of the Christmas season, even over Christmas itself and New Years. In Spain, Santa Claus or Papá Noel does not come on Christmas Eve night to drop toys off for all the little kids. December 25th marks the first day of Christmas, and January 5th marks the 12th day of Christmas. It is said that during those 12 days of Christmas, the 3 Wise Men or 3 Wise Kings travel across the desert to Bethlehem to meet Baby Jesus. Once they arrive, they provide gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh to Jesus.
On January 5th, the 12th day of Christmas, in each city around Spain you will see crowds of people gather in the streets to see the 3 Wise men in procession, and during the evening of January 5th, the kids will leave out their shoes where the Wise Men can find them, and they will leave out plates of treats for them to eat. In return, the Wise Men will leave wrapped gifts for the children. On the morning of January 6th, the children will wake up and open their presents. There are a lot of parallels between Santa Claus and the 3 Wise Men.
Food on Día De Los Reyes
Just as with American Tradition, the Spanish eat a lot of food on Día De Los Reyes. In the morning they eat Roscón, a pastry with candied fruit on top.
During the middle of the day, they will eat a large feast of Spanish Food. They may eat Tortilla de Patata (Spanish Omelet with potatoes and onion), Arroz a la Costra (Rice, Egg, and sausage dish all combined), or they may eat a Paella.
In our family, Paella is our favorite authentic Spanish recipe, and one that is frequently eaten on Epiphany. So, on January 6th, we celebrated Epiphany the Spanish way and ate Paella for dinner. Paella can be cooked in many ways. There are as many Paella recipes as there are people in Spain. Each family has their own way of preparing it and you will never eat two of the same paella dishes.
Different Types of Paella
Seafood Paella: This fish is mostly eaten along the coastal regions of Spain. This one is my favorite. It consists of rice, saffron, shrimp, craw fish, mussels, clams, and sometimes a big lobster tail in the middle.
Meat Paella: This recipe is mostly eaten in the inland regions of Spain and consists of rice, saffron, chicken, pork, rabbit, and possibly Spanish chorizo.
Paella Mixta: This recipe consists of both meats and seafood. They may contain shrimp and chicken, or shrimp and chorizo.
Although there are millions of paella recipes, they will fit into one of the three categories above.
This is an amazing dish, and most people fall in love with it from the first moment they eat it. I am going to be sharing that recipe with you along with a video of myself preparing the dish. I don’t go into very deep detail in my explanations, so the written recipe should be used in conjunction with the video.
We chose to do a Paella Mixta, with Chicken and Shrimp. Although seafood paella is my favorite, it does take a great deal more of preparation, so we prepare the seafood paella once in a while.
Chicken and Shrimp Paella
1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4-6 Chicken Thighs and/or legs (bone-in with skin)
10 to 15 large shrimp
1/2 of a large bell pepper, sliced in julienne strips
1 large onion diced
4 large garlic cloves, chopped into quarters
6 to 8 artichoke hearts
1 tomato diced
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
3 15oz cans of chicken stock or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups uncooked short grain rice
Salt to taste
Heat up a large frying pan over medium heat (a paella pan would be the best, but a frying pan will do) with a 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Toss chicken thighs/legs into the oil and cook one side until crispy. Flip chicken over and as the other side begins to cook, toss in the diced onion. Cook until onion is translucent, then toss in the garlic cloves, artichoke hearts, parsley, and diced tomatoes. Mix around the vegetables in between the chicken and cook for about two minutes.
Simultaneously while the chicken and vegetables are cooking, heat up 3 cans of chicken stock in a sauce pan long with paprika and saffron strands.
Once the vegetables have cooked a couple of minutes with the chicken, add in 1 1/2 cups of rice. Mix the rice around and get it nice and moist and is spread around evenly. Pour in chicken broth/saffron/paprika mixture and add just enough that all the rice is completely submerged. Do not feel the need to use all the broth now. Make sure that no rice is sitting on top of the chicken or on top of the other vegetables as it must stay under the broth to cook.
Add the strips of red pepper and the shrimp on top of the chicken stock and rice. Lay them out evenly and neatly. After the shrimp has cooked for a couple of minutes, go through and flip them over so the other side cooks pink too. Taste the broth and food with a spoon, add salt as needed to taste.
As the broth boils off and you start seeing more rice, taste test the rice and make sure it’s not crunchy at all. If you are running out of broth, add more until the rice is perfectly cooked.
Now that the Paella is done, serve each person a piece of chicken and some paella. It tastes really good with a side garden salad.
A few key notes to keep in mind while cooking:
*This is not an easy dish to prepare, if it doesn’t turn out too tasty, try again and again. It took me 3 failed attempts until I made a decent paella.
* The more saffron and paprika you add, the yellower the rice will become. Avoid yellow food coloring to make it more yellow as food coloring may contain unhealthy ingredients
*Saffron is expensive in the USA. You may spend up to $25 for a jar of about 1 teaspoon of saffron. I recommend buying saffron at Trader Joes, last time I checked it was under $10. If you don’t have a Trader Joes in your area, next best place to buy it on Amazon.
*Do not buy saffron with yellow food coloring, it contains yellow 5, which is not healthy
*Always use bone-in chicken, the bones provide a lot of flavoring, while using boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh will likely lead to a flavorless paella.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I answer all comments.