Paella is a delightful Saffron infused dish that originates from Spain. There, entire families will participate to make this dish, typically over an open flame. It is basically a rice dish with different meats like sausage, chicken and/or seafood. I’m particular to having seafood in my Paella.
It is nice to have an actual Paella pan. I have a 14 inch one, but a large skillet will work, too.
I make it once in a great while because it does involve some task intensiveness to make solo. I like to make this dish for special occasions like birthdays or a an a-typical dish for holidays. Recently, I made it for Easter in lieu of the traditional Ham or Turkey dinner.
The first thing I do is make an aioli and cut up some lemon wedges to have ready for serving.
To make the aioli, you will need a few cloves of garlic, chopped or minced, a pinch or two of salt, some olive oil and lemon juice for flavor.
Put the chopped garlic and salt in a mini food processor and pulse until the mixture is very fine. Then, drizzle just enough olive oil in to make a thick mayonnaise-like consistency. Mix in lemon juice to taste. Refrigerate until serving time.
For the Paella, you will need the following:
1/3 lb shrimp, peeled (reserve the shells for making the broth)
1/3 lb scallops and/or calamari
8-10 small clams
A pinch of Saffron threads
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely grated
1 tomato, finely grated
1/4 cup Olive oil
Salt to taste
1 1/2 cups of medium grain rice
- Preparing the seafood: Peel the shrimp and save those shells. If the calamari needs skinning, do that. Scrub the beards off the mussels, if you need to. Pat dry all of the seafood and set aside.
- Toasting the Saffron: In a small, heated skillet, toast the Saffron threads gently, crushing them with the back of a wooden spoon to break them up some.
- Making the broth: In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil 3 1/2 cups of salted water and the shrimp shells. Simmer the broth for a few minutes and then strain out the shells. Return the sauce pan to the stove and continue to simmer, adding in the toasted, crushed Saffron threads. Taste the broth and add more salt if needed. The broth should be well seasoned.
- Saute’ the seafood: In the Paella pan or large skillet, heat the olive oil on high and saute’ the shrimp, scallops and calamari until cooked through (about 2 minutes). Then, set them aside for later.
- Make the Sofrito: Pour out all of the olive oil except about 1 to 2 tablespoons. Heat the oil on medium heat and saute’ the garlic and grated onion until the onion softens (about 5 minutes). Then, add in the grated tomato and cook the mixture until a dark, thick puree’ develops (about 10 to 15 minutes). This is called the Sofrito.
- Cooking the rice: First, bring the broth back to a simmer. Once the sofrito is created, add in the rice, sauteing it for about a minute until it loses its opaqueness. Then, increase heat to medium high. Pour in 3 cups of the broth (reserve 1/2 cup) and stir or shake the pan/skillet to distribute the rice evenly.
- Add in the mussels and clams: After the pan of rice comes to a boil, arrange the mussels and clams in the rice mixture, submerging them as much as possible below the level of the liquid. From this point on, don’t stir or shake the pan/skillet.
- Cooking the Paella: On medium high heat, rotate and move the pan over one or two burners to distribute the heat evenly. After about 8 to 10 minutes, the rice will begin to appear above the liquid. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to simmer the mixture, rotating the pan periodically until all of the liquid has been absorbed (about 10 minutes).
- Check for Al Dente’: Taste a grain or two of rice. It should be al dente’. If it is not done but all of the liquid is gone, sprinkle in more of the reserved broth and cook a few minutes more, rotating the pan. Add in the rest of the seafood (shrimp, scallops and calamari).
- Creating the Soccarat: Cover the pan or skillet with aluminum foil and cook for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and continue to rotate the Paella for another 2 minutes. At this point, you may hear some crackling. That is the soccarat forming. If it smells like its burning, immediately remove the pan/skillet from the heat.
- Rest the Paella: Let the Paella rest for about 5 minutes. This is a good time to get the aioli and lemon wedges from the refrigerator and set the table.
Serve on individual plates OR let your guests eat directly from the pan or skillet, working from the perimeter of the Paella, toward the center. Don’t forget the aioli or lemon wedges!