Do you love seafood? I mean, really really love seafood? Then I invite you to taste the sea with me in this Spanish dish called Paella. This is a rice dish which has 3 major variations. This variation, paella de marisco, derives its name from the use of seafood. In spite of its name, fish is not used, and should not be used in this dish. It is a rich and flavor filled dish which is very impressive when served family style as is traditionally the case. Aside from the seafood, other high notes in this dish are smoked paprika and saffron which are a must in the preparation of paella. It does take some effort to make, but like any dish Cooked with love, it is quite rewarding.
(1) 2 Cups, Spanish Short Grain Rice or Arborio Rice
(2) 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
(3) 1 Medium Onion
(4) 3 Garlic Cloves
(5) Assortment of Seafood. (Traditionally, this should include Calamari, Mussels, Shrimps and scampi. I have however used some lobster and clams in this recipe)
(6) 1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
(7) 1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder
(8) A Large Pinch Saffron
(9) 1 Cup Tomato Puree
(10) 6 Cups Fish Stock
(11) Salt and Pepper to taste.
NOTE: This is a meal steeped in tradition. Thus, it would be great to pay attention to the below points so as to cook a perfect paella.
(1) The liquid to rice ratio is very important in the preparation of paella and so it must be followed or else you would end up with soggy or uncooked paella. The ratio is 3 Cups of Fish Stock for every cup of rice.
(2) Traditionally, paella should be cooked in a traditional flat pan and on an open flame. I have modified this recipe to suit large frying pans on an indoor burner.
(3),The recipe calls for tomato puree which is different from tomato paste. You can buy tomato puree in cans or make yours by crushing tomato and boiling to reduce some liquid. You will need about 4 large tomatoes to do this. I have a HOW TO post here on how to make your own crushed Tomatoes. I also have a tutorial on how to make tomato paste here.
(4) Short grained Spanish or Arborio rice should be used for this recipe. Do not use parboiled, basmati or any other long grained rice as it wont come out right.
(5) Lastly, you should use fish stock for this recipe and not beef or chicken stock. I have a tutorial on how to make fish stock here.
(1) Prepare your fish stock if you do not have some already.
(2) Clean the mussels and clams. Notes on how to do this can be found here. After cleaning them, heat about 1/2 Cup of water in a large pot. When the water starts boiling, pour the cleaned mussels and clams in and steam for 5 minutes. Discard any that does not open. Shell mussels and clams. Save some shells for presentation.
(3) If using lobster, fill a large pot with water. Salt it generously. As soon as it starts boiling, place lobster in boiling water and cover. Lobsters take between 12 to 20 minutes to cook depending on size. Remove lobster from hot water when cooked and allow to cool down before shelling to extract flesh.
(4) Wash Shrimps and scampi (if using). Do not shell these as they would be cooked whole.
(5) Wash calamari (squid) and cut tubs into large portions. Divide tentacles if large.
(6) Mince onions and garlic together. You want these to be finely minced. I made use of a food processor for this. It can however be done with a sharp knife.
(1) Heat olive oil in large frying pan. When hot, add Shrimps and scampi and saute for about 5 minutes or until cooked.
(2) Remove Shrimps from oil and fry minced onions and garlic for 5 minutes. Stir constantly so it does not burn.
(3) After 5 minutes, add calamari and saute for another 5 minutes.
(4) After 5 minutes, Add spices (smoked paprika, chili powder and saffron). The paprika gives this dish a smoky flavor which you will start to perceive immediately. The saffron adds to the flavor and gives the dish a bright deep orange color. Next, Add the tomato puree and saute for 1 minute.
(5) Its now time to add the liquid and rice. Pour in the fish stock and allow it to come to a boil. The stock might look like a lot, but it isn’t. The rice will soak it all up. Add the rice next and stir a little bit to evenly distribute rice. DO NOT STIR FROM NOW ON.
NOTE: Do not wash rice before adding. Spanish and arborio rice come already clean. You also need the starch molecules on the surface of the rice in the dish.
(6) Cover pan with a large lid and allow the rice to cook for 7 minutes on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.
(7) After 17 minutes in total, add fried Shrimps and scampi to top of rice. If using lobster, add it at the point. Paella is all about presentation so be sure to arrange the seafood well on the top of the rice. Continue to cook rice for 5 minutes.
(8) After 5 minutes, add mussels and clams to rice. You can use some mussel shells to arrange the mussels beautifully on top of the rice. The shells attract light and give off a lovely blue color when exposed to light. Cover rice and cook for 1 more minute.
(9) After 1 minute, switch fire off and leave rice covered for 5 minutes. This will enable the rice soak up any leftover liquid in the pan.
After this period of resting, your paella is ready to be shown off to family and friends. This dish might look like a lot if work, but the end does justify the means.
KITCHEN TIP: After working with seafood, there is a tendency for your kitchen and house to retain the seafood smell. You can deal with this by boiling some lemon and vinegar in some water and leaving it uncovered on your kitchen counter over night. This should deal with all or most of the fish smell.
Paella seems too stressful for you? Try an easier seafood and rice dish. Check out my Seafood Fried Rice recipe here.