After having shared the recipe for allioli in my previous post, it was only fitting that I would share the recipe for seafood paella, which is what I mentioned I would be accompanying the allioli with. Matthew, the most paella-loving of my children, left yesterday for his second semester in college, which means I might not make paella for a little while. The house is quieter, and even though school started for Ethan and David last week, now it definitely feels like it’s back to a regular routine. A sweet routine, though, of gloomier days, frequent and concatenating snowfalls, colder temperatures and a more contemplative existence. I like these days, gray and slate, that allow me and inspire me to ponder and dream of projects —new, unfinished, or in the making.
Seafood paella is probably the most famous paella outside of Spain, but not so for Valencians. In Valencia, the birthplace of paella and my birthplace as well, paella valenciana, Valencian paella, includes chicken and vegetables, and sometimes rabbit, sometimes snails, and sometimes other ingredients that would be considered un-edible in other parts of the world. It is the most popular, and the most frequently consumed and made in homes.
I’ve been making Valencian paella for many years, but seafood paella has been a more recent addition. The reason is that the basis for a good seafood paella is a rich, savory seafood stock (click here for recipe), and as I mention elsewhere in this blog, coming up with such a recipe, with the fish and shellfish easily available to me in the Midwest, has required some trial and error.
Seafood paella is a spectacular dish, and I hope you don’t feel intimidated to make it. But mastering paella takes some practice and technique, so I would suggest making paella at home for family before making it for a large crowd. A good place to start is my section on Paella in this blog, particularly the very practical Tips and Notes, and The Ingredients, where you’ll find out from what size and type of paella pan to use, to the best kinds of rice for paella.
Mama Ía blog is appropriately named Cooking Spanish in the Midwest, because cooking Spanish here is different than in Spain. The obvious reason is, no question, the lack of the right ingredients, more specifically, the lack of local fresh ingredients. Mediterranean fish and seafood for one. Meats, and charcuterie especially, is another. Local fruits and vegetables is a third. Consequently, the way I cook seafood paella, or the way I make seafood stock and what I put in it, varies slightly from what I’d use if I were in Spain. You’ll notice in the photos for this post, for instance, that I used mussels and calamari, but the shrimp I use is headless, because I can’t find whole shrimp. I also used scallops, to make up for the lack of monkfish at the market today.
You might notice (and this was a mishap!) I forgot to include the roasted red peppers that I call for in the recipe. I had them ready, and realized too late that they were not in the paella, but in the dish were I had placed them earlier, reserved to be used. Oh well! These things happen.
Something else to consider when making paella is that the bottom of the pan has to be in contact with the heat source, and your stove, like mine, will probably not have a burner large enough. To solve this, place the paella over two or three burners, turning it regularly so every section of the paella gets evenly cooked.
The recipe below will feed six people, and you’ll notice that it doesn’t use a large amount of seafood. The reason is that in paella, the main ingredient is the rice, a flavourful rice I should say, which is achieved with a very flavorful seafood broth —a weak broth will make for a lackluster paella. You are, however, free to add more seafood to your paella, as per your preference.
Now back to my daydreaming, of recipes, travels, books and projects. Have a good winter, everyone.
Paella de Marisco
I used a 16-inch enameled steel paella pan (click here)
Ingredients (for six):
4 cups medium grain rice (preferably Spanish Bomba or Calasparra)
6 large raw prawns (ideally, with their heads on)
1/2 pound calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled
1/2 pound monkfish or grouper, cut into chunks
10 cups seafood stock
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 medium tomato, grated
1 roasted red pepper, cut into 2 inch strips
Pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon sweet Pimentón de La Vera, or Spanish paprika
Salt to taste
Steam the mussels: in a saucepan, place the cleaned and debearded mussels with 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer, gently shaking the saucepan from time to time until the mussels have opened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain, reserving the liquid. Discard the mussels that didn’t open and remove the shells of some of the ones that did open. Reserve the mussels.
In the paella pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and sear the prawns, 2 minutes per side. Set aside. Add the calamari, the medium shrimp and the fish, and sauté, 6-7 minutes. Add the remaining olive oil and sauté the garlic, parsley and tomato for 7-8 minutes. Stir in the saffron and the pimentón.
Add in the seafood stock and a pinch of salt and stir to mix. Bring to a boil and add the rice, distributing it evenly on the paella pan. Cook at high heat for about 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the roasted pepper and the mussels, and cook for 5 minutes. Arrange the prawns on top and raise the heat to high, cooking for another 5 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice grains are tender. If the rice is still not done, sprinkle a bit of the reserved liquid from the mussels, one tablespoon at the time, and cook for a few more minutes.
Remove the paella from the heat and cover with paper towels or newspaper, to let the rice rest, before serving.