Q. Looking for a good paella recipe to make this weekend. Do you know of any? Thanks.
A. You can make paella a host of different ways, as the recent Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery demonstrated. You can use any cut of pork, Thai curry or crawfish, if you choose. Let your imagination run wild.
I prefer at least to build on a traditional recipe that reminds of when I first had paella. I was in Barcelona back in high school. It had a number of ingredients I don’t remember ever having had before, including squid, saffron, chorizo and artichokes. Rice was about all I recognized, but I loved the dish from the first bite.
I wish I had my host’s recipe, but the closest I’ve found is Janet Mendel’s Paella with Seafood from “Tapas and More Great Dishes from Spain,” a much-used cookbook I picked up in Spain on a subsequent visit. Her version is a good template that you can alter to suit your personal tastes. I would use chorizo, for example, and probably substitute more shrimp and scallops for the squid, simply because I’ve never cooked with squid. (Why, I don’t know.) I’d also use clams instead of mussels. I also like to garnish the dish with some fresh green herbs, such as cilantro or parsley.
That sounds like a lot of substitutions, but it is still built on a great base of rice with saffron and seafood stock, chicken, vegetables including peas and artichokes as well as green bell pepper and roasted red pepper.
Paella with Seafood (Paella con Mariscos)
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and steamed open
1 pound large or jumbo, uncooked shrimp
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds chicken or rabbit, cut in small pieces
10 ounces squid, cleans and cut in rings
2 small green peppers, diced
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 ounces peas or broad beans or green beans or quartered artichokes (par-boil beans or artichokes)
6 1/2 cups water or stock
1 pound Spanish short-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon saffron (or more for a bright yellow color)
Crushed peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons salt
1 roasted red pepper, cut in strips
Lemon, for garnish
Discard the empty half shells of the mussels. Strain the liquid and reserve it. Cook 6-8 unpeeled shrimp in boiling water for 1 minute. Set them aside and add the liquid to the mussel liquid . Shell the remaining prawns.
Heat the oil in a paella pan or large frying pan (about 16 inches across). Fry the chicken pieces, adding next the green peppers, then the tomato, garlic and peas, beans or artichokes. Combine the reserved liquid and stock or water to make 6 1/2 cups. Add all but 1 cupful of the liquid to the paella. Crush the saffron in a mortar or in a teacup using the butt-end of a knife. Dissolve it in a little water or white wine and stir into the paella with the pepper and salt. Add the peeled prawns. When the liquid comes to a boil, add the rice and continue to cook on a high heat for 6 to 8 minutes. Then reduce the heat and continue to cook until rice is just barely tender, adding the additional liquid as needed, about 8-10 minutes more. Don’t stir the rice, but shake the pan. Garnish the top with the reserved mussels, cooked prawns and strips of roasted red pepper. Let the paella rest for 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.
Makes 6 servings.
From “Tapas and More Great Dishes from Spain” by Janet Mendel
Photo courtesy Johnny Hernandez