Another first of the year, seafood paella
Mar. 19, 2013 5:14 pm
Updated: Apr. 7, 2013 9:18 pm
I have to admit, I just love cooking paella over an open fire or backyard charcoal grill. There's just something about it that no other cooking experience can bring, at least for me. Paella over fire is a nonstop dance of heat, oil, ingredients, the sofrito,
the rice, constantly turning, stirring and moving until you add the stock. Then when you finally get to the point of allowing the rice to set and absorb the liquid, you begin to listen carefully. Listen for that moment for when about the last of the liquid
is gone and just as the socarrat begins to form in the bottom of the pan. The socarrat, that
caramelized crust of rice is the holy grail of paella cooking because that's where much of the flavor is. Take the pan off too soon, there isn't any. Take it off too late and you've got charcoal.
Yesterday I mentioned that this weekend we had our first pasta with fresh (greenhouse) tomatoes. We also made our first outdoor paella. Spring must definitely be here because not only are we cooking on our grill outside, but we now have the light in the evening
to do it! Lovely! As is usual when we are making paella, my boys and their wives plus kids will come over for dinner. We decided on a seafood paella this time (actually the boys decided that's what we would be making) so I went to the local fish market and
picked up a pound each of mussels, prawns and littleneck clams. For a meal like this I use a 17" Pata Negra paella pan that can easily hold 2-3 cups of rice and goodies. One asked for lobster so I said sure thing, go ahead and bring it over :)
For paella's I like to use my own stock although for chicken paella's I will sometimes use "Stock Options" frozen stock that you can (hopefully) find in the freezer section of the grocer (www.stockoptionsonline.com)
. For this particular dish I made a shrimp stock, (recipe at the end). I also always make my own sofrito (recipe follows). For each I'll make a large batch and freeze the extra for the next round. Sofrito is very versatile and can be used in a bunch of different
Spanish dishes so extra is always a good thing.
Since the paella is being made over a hot charcoal grill, having everything set up and ready to go ahead of time is an absolute necessity. This seafood recipe is easier than what I usually make since overall there are less ingredients. They are:
Mis en place:
1/2 yellow or white onion roughly chopped
1 small leek, cleaned, halved and chopped into 1/2 rings
1 cup of sofrito
2 TBSPs of chopped Italian parsley
2 1/2 cups Bomba Rice
7 cups of shrimp stock
1 lb peeled and deveined prawns
1 lb washed mussels (de-bearded)
1 lb washed littleneck clams
1 TSP saffron ground together with 1 TSP coarse salt
1 TSP sea salt
A good Spanish olive oil
For the grill, and I use a large Weber charcoal grill, get a full layer of coals going, enough to cover the entire bottom with roughly two layers. Not too hot but you want the coals to last 45 minutes. Place the pan on the grill and add a good glug of olive
oil, 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Add the onions and leeks and begin stirring constantly so you do not burn the onion. When translucent and starting to turn golden (probably only 2 minutes) add the sofrito and start turning again. Thrown in the parsley. The sofrito should
begin to darken. Now add the rice and stir constantly, coating the rice in the oil and sofrito. The rice should begin turning white as you stir. Now add half the stock and stir well. Add some stock to the saffron/salt mixture to dissolve and pour into the
rice. Add the rest of the stock and the 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir well or shake the pan back and forth to distribute (remember the pan will be very hot). Add the shrimp, mussles and clams to the pan by hand sticking them into and under the liquid. Distribute
evenly. Ok, now sit back and watch. Remember that the #1 rule in paella cooking is NOT to disturb the rice as it cooks. The liquid will form a very thin film over the rice which distributes the heat evenly. Poking a spoon or fork into the liquid breaks the
seal and the rice won't cook evenly.
All righty. So now your rice is cooking, the liquid is being absorbed and the bubbles are moving further down into the rice, disappearing from the top surface. Now's when you start to listen. You'll hear a bubbling that will eventually start to give way to
a sizzle. This is when the socarrat is about to form. If you want to violate :) go ahead and do so at this time, lifting a small bit of rice from around the center where the socarrat forms first to see if it's there. If it is, your call on how much longer
you want it to go. You can take it off now and let it set for a few minutes before digging in.
When you eat the paella, as I remind my kids, it is best to eat it vertically, that is scoop out a whole portion like you would a pie or a lasagna rather than scraping across the top. This is because the flavor profile is different in layers from the top to
the bottom as the flavor intensifies closest to the bottom (see why everyone wants to eat the socarrat?). For chicken or "mixta" paellas I will sometimes sprinkle some grated manchego on top but as this was pure seafood I did not.
A note about the rice: I only use Bomba rice from Calasparra, Spain which is what the Spaniards use. Bomba can absorb around three times its volume in liquid which is why I use about a 1-3 ratio of rice to liquid. In theory you could also
use Italian Arborio which is similar. I suppose that means you could use Bomba for risotto (although I've never tried that). If you do not use Bomba, then you'll probably have to adjust the liquid accordingly.
Enjoy and happy cooking!
The Shrimp Stock
The stock I make here for this seafood paella is essentially the prep I make for
spaghetti with shrimp. Whenever I buy shrimp, I buy them whole and peel and de-vein them myself so I can save the shells for stock.
1 TBSP olive oil
1 carrot cut large
1 celery stalk cut large
1/2 onion cut into eights
1 garlic clove crushed
Few black pepercorns
Few springs of Italian Parsley
1 Quart bag full of shrimp shells
1 TBSP of tomato paste or 1/4 cup of tomato passata
10 cups of water (2 1/2 quarts)
Heat the oil in a stock pan and add all the vegtables, cooking for a few minutes to soften. Add the shrimp shells and stir, cooking until the shells turn pink. With a wooden spoon, crush the shells while stirring. Add the tomato paste/passata and cook a few
minutes more. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Periodically scoop out the foam the rises to the top. Simmer for 30 minutes then strain.
For this batch I used less onion as I also used leeks. The most important ingredient in the sofrito is the caramelized onion, so be prepared to cook the onion slowly for about an hour.
3/4 cup Olive Oil
2 yellow onions small chop
2 leeks, halved and then cut into 1/2" rings
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp spanish smoked paprika (dulce)
1 bay leaf
1 26oz container Pomi crushed tomatoes
Add the oil to a heavy saucepan on medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the salt and sugar and then lower the heat a bit to low, medium-low. Stir every few minutes and cook until the onion caramelizes which can take 45-60 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, paprika and bay leaf and stir well. Cook another 20 minutes or so until the tomato darkens and the oil begins to separate.
Sofrito with Leek