Serves four (13″-14″ paella pan is ideal)
Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that can be made in many different ways. Though around here, often you have to go to a gourmet restaurant, paella is traditionally a “peasant food.” The reason there are so many different varieties of paella is because it is affected by region. Whatever food resources were available locally and were affordable were what went into the paella. The version I am using is a seafood paella. Feel free to tweak the recipe with additions of vegetables or meat of choice.
1/3 lb. shrimp, peeled (reserve the shells for broth)
pinch of saffron threads
salt to taste
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/3 lb scallops (or squid with tubes cut in rings)
1/2 onion, grated on the largest holes of a box grater.
8 cloves garlic, peeled
5 Tbsp minced parsley
1 C minced cilantro
1 ripe tomato, halved and grated on the largest holes of a box grater (discard the skin)
1 1/2 C medium grain rice
8 small mussels or clams (1/2 lb), scrubbed, cleaned, and allowed to “breathe” any sand
1 lemon, cut in wedges for garnish
You may want to keep a cup of additional chicken stock on hand in case you need it if the rice absorbs more liquid than you have available.
- Scrub clean the mussels/clams. If using mussels, snip off “beards” with scissors. Drop them into cold water and let stand for at least two hours underwater so that they eject any remaining sand they may be holding.
- While waiting for the clams, prep all ingredients and make garlic alioli:
- Add a few cloves chopped garlic and a large pinch of salt to a mini food processor.
- Process until very fine.
- With motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil to make a thick, mayonnaise-like consistency.
- In a medium saucepan, boil 3.5 cups salted water. Add the shrimp shells and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Strain the broth and return the broth to the saucepan.
- In a dry skillet, toast the saffron gently, crush the threads with the back of a spoon, and add to the broth.
- Taste broth for salt – it should be well seasoned.
- Pat the shrimp and scallops/calamari dry.
- In a 14″ paella pan, heat the oil on high. When the oil is hot, saute the seafood until almost cooked through, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan.
- Reduce the heat to medium and saute the onion and garlic until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato, season with salt, and saute the mixture (called sofrito) until it has darkened and is a thick puree (about 10-15 minutes).
- Add 5 Tbsp minced parsley.
- Bring the shrimp shell broth back to a simmer.
- When the sofrito is ready, add rice to the pan.
- Saute until the rice loses its opaqueness – about 1 minute.
- Increase heat to medium high and pour in 3 cups of broth (reserving the remaining 1/2 C), and stir or shake the pan to evenly distribute the rice in the pan.
- Mix in minced cilantro.
- As the liquid comes to a boil, arrange the mussels/clams in the pan, submerging them as much as possible below the level of the liquid. From this point on, do not stir the rice.
- Cook paella on medium high, rotating and moving the pan over one or two burners to distribute the heat. When the rice begins to appear above the liquid (after 8-10 minutes), reduce the heat to medium low.
- Continue to simmer, rotating the pan as necessary, until the liquid has been absorbed (about 10 min).
- Taste a grain of rice just below the top layer – it should be al dente.
- If the rice is not done but all the liquid has been absorbed, sprinkle a bit of hot broth to the pan and cook a few minutes more.
- Arrange the remaining seafood in the pan.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook gently for another 2 minutes to help ensure that the top layer of rice is evenly cooked.
- With foil still in place, increase heat to medium high and, rotating the pan, cook for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating the socarrat.
- The rice may crackle somewhat, but if it starts burning, remove the pan from the heat immediately.
- Let the paella rest off the heat, still covered, for about 5 minutes.
- Serve with paella in the center of the table and invite guests to eat directly from the pan, starting at the perimeter and working toward the center.
- Spread garlic alioli across the top of the rice.
- Serve with lemon juice squeezed over the top (individually, to taste).