My father-in-law cooks classic paella in the traditional style: in a massive pan over a live fire in the backyard. Made with rice, seafood, saffron, sausage, and chicken, paella is expensive. My solution is to use less pricey mussels or clams with chicken drumsticks and Italian sausage. A blend of turmeric and paprika can stand in for saffron, or use inexpensive dried safflower, a.k.a. "Mexican saffron," readily available on the West Coast.
1. Place the tomato, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor and puree until semismooth.
2. Set the chicken on a cutting board, pat dry with paper towels, and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over low heat. Place the chicken and sausage in the pan and cook on both sides until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and sausage to a plate and set aside. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook just until they begin to curl and color on the bottom, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Quickly transfer them to the plate with the meat.
3. Pour the vegetable puree into the pan and cook, stirring often, until the puree turns a dark red-orange and turns into a semithick saucy paste, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, paprika, turmeric, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and then mix in the rice. Cook for 2 minutes and then pour in the broth and water, stirring and scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. Raise the heat to medium and bring the liquid to a simmer, then reduce to medium-low. Gently simmer for 10 minutes, then remove the cover and place the chicken legs on top of the rice. Replace the cover and continue to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes more or until a crust forms under the rice.
4. Turn off the heat, uncover the pan, and add the sausage, shrimp, and shellfish. Pour the lemon juice over the top and cover. Let the pan sit until the shrimp have finished cooking through and the shellfish have opened, about 5 minutes. Serve.
Reprinted from the book Ten Dollar Dinners. Copyright (c) 2012 by Melissa d'Arabian. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.