When most people think of Spanish food, paella is usually the first dish that jumps to mind.
It is one of Spain’s most popular dishes. And with any nationally treasured food, with every region comes a regional specialty i.e. the U.S. and our love of pizza, New York vs Chicago or chili Texas vs. Cincinnati. So it goes with paella.
The rice dish originated in the Valencia region of Spain. It was created initially using chicken and rabbit meat with some garden green beans, artichokes and snails thrown in for good measure. A very different paella from the popular one that has been adapted by most foreigners known as the Mixed Paella which includes, chicken, sausage, seafood and the occasional veggie.
Another style of authentic Valencian paella is the Seafood Paella. Quite common along the Mediterranean coast this paella uses no meat, only freshly available seafood like shrimp, clams, mussels and lobster.
I opted for to go the more traditional route and since rabbit and sails weren’t handy I went with Authentic Paella #2, the Seafood Paella.
Paella is prepared in a paella pan and these can be found for a pretty reasonable price, but I chose to go without. I have a smallish kitchen and as much as I love specialty cooking items my pantry (and honestly my husband) does not. So with storage space being at a premium I did some searching and found that you can use either a very large frying pan (15″ or so) or a roasting pan set over two burners and get the same yummy results. I went with the roasting pan and it was an absolute success! Everyone (including my spatially challenged kitchen) was pleased.
A scant 1/2 tsp of saffron, crushed
1/2 cup of white wine
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 TBSP smoked paprika
3 cloves of garlic, minced or through a press
3 dried bay leaves
1 cup of diced tomatoes
1 small onion, minced
7 cups of chicken broth
2 1/2 cups of short grain rice, Valencia, bomba or Arborio
8 oz of fresh or frozen peas
3 jarred roasted red peppers, sliced into 1/2″ strips
12 mussels, cleaned and debearded
12 clams, cleaned
1/2 cup of white wine
Put the saffron and 1/2 cup of white wine in a small bowl and let soak for about 15 minutes.
Heat the oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper then add to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until pink and seared, about 5 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Add paprika, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes and onions to pan and cook, stirring often, until the onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add the rice and stir it around letting it roast for a minute or two in the pan. Add the saffron/white wine mixture and bring to a boil. Then add the chicken broth and stir to combine all ingredients, season with salt and return to a boil over high heat.
Cook without stirring until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, 10-12 minutes. Be sure to rotate the pan every few minutes, especially if it is larger than the burner, so the rice can cook evenly.
While the paella is cooking, steam the mussels and clams with the 1/2 cup of white wine in a lidded pot over medium-high heat. Once they have opened set them aside, discard any that don’t open.
Once the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, reduce heat to low and add shrimp, peas and roasted red peppers and cook without stirring until the rice has absorbed the remaining liquid and is al dente, about 5-10 minutes more.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the mussels and clams then cover the pan with aluminum foil and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with lemon wedges.
If you like feel free to add chicken and/or sliced dry cured Spanish chorizo to the above recipe. They can be cooked at the same time as the shrimp, but unlike the shrimp the chicken and sausage are left in the pan to cook with the rice and stock throughout the whole process.