This is a classic seafood paella originating from the Valencia region of Spain. It was classically made with local ingredients such as rabbit, snails, mushrooms, artichokes and broad beans. The seafood version typically includes prawns, mussels, clams and often calamari.
We start by making our soffrito or flavor base and then slowly add the other components, based on cooking time, to create an amazing almost dry rice stew (though it will not taste dry) that is one of the most festive and celebratory dishes you will ever see. The Valencia or bomba rice is critical as its short, fat grains are able to absorb an extraordinary amount of liquid while remaining firm to the bite.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4-6):
-1 paella pan (12 to 16 inches in diameter) or similar size cast iron pan (see Spanishtable.com or LaTienda.com for sources)
-Good extra virgin olive oil (ideally from Spain)
-1-tablespoon of pimenton picante (hot, smoked Spanish paprika)
-1 large white onion, finely chopped
-4 quarts of homemade lobster or fish stock (chicken stock is fine as well)
-10 head-on gulf prawns
-20 Manila clams
-1/2 tablespoon saffron threads
-1 pound Romano or green beans cut into 2 inch pieces (English peas work well too when available)
-2 lemons, thinly sliced for garnish
-1 cup tomato puree – I like the Mutti brand of “passata”. Whole, canned, San Marzano tomtoes, crushed by hand, also work well.
-1.5 cups of “bomba” Spanish rice from Valencia
-garlic aioli (optional, for mixing in with the rice). See the end of this post for how to prepare.
Heat your paella pan over high heat until almost smoking (assemble across 2 burners if necessary. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt and sauté until soft. If the onions start to burn turn down the heat and drizzle in more olive oil. Once soft and translucent (1-2 minutes) add tomatoes (lightly salt them) and stir. Cook for 1 minute or until the tomatoes release some liquid. Add the saffron to the liquid released by the tomatoes. Add the pimenton. Stir to combine and continue cooking for 15 seconds (do not burn the pimenton).
Pour in all of the rice and stir through the pan. Turn the heat back up to high. Allow the rice to absorb the flavors of the soffrito for 30 seconds. Add the stock to just cover the rice and bring to a boil. Carefully stir the rice and distribute evenly through the pan. This is the only time you will ever stir the paella as we want it to cook evenly in one layer.
Turn down the heat and maintain a medium simmer. The rice should be bubbling but not boiling aggressively. Cook for 15-20 minutes, adding more stock as needed each time the rice begins to look dry. Salt the paella throughout the cooking process, taking care to taste as you go. Add the prawns and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes, tasting the rice to check it’s progress and adding more stock as needed. Occasionally rotate and gently shake the pan to ensure even cooking. Turn the prawns over and add more stock as needed. When the rice tastes almost cooked through (25-30 minutes in) add the green beans and the clams.
Continue cooking until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the rice begins to look a bit “sticky.” Add the mussels. Continue cooking on low heat until you begin to smell a slight “burning.” The “socorrat” is developing. Allow this to continue for a few more minutes and then turn off the heat. Garnish with thinly sliced lemon pieces. Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 15 minutes. Serve the entire pan at the table family style. If you’ve cooked this dish well you will discover nice browned bits on the bottom of the pan. This is called the “socorrat” and is absolutely delicious and full of flavor.
This is so easy to make, especially with a hand- blender. You can also use a regular blender or food processor.
Ingredients (serves 6):
-1 whole egg
-1 cup of sunflower or safflower oil
-pinch of salt
-2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
splash of lemon juice or Sherry vinegar
Add the egg to the blender or container if using a hand blender. Be sure to use the blade attachment. Add a pinch of salt, the lemon juice or vinegar and the garlic. Pour in 1⁄4 cup of the oil and begin blending. Slowly drizzle in the rest of the oil until you have a thick emulsion. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Fresh aioli will keep refrigerated for 3 days.
James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com