Monday, January 5, 2009

Classic paella

I've made paella on this blog before, but it makes another appearance for two reasons. First, Sharlene got abby and I a nice paella pan as a wedding gift, so we had to have her over and give it a spin. And, second, the last time I made paella there was definitely room for improvement. The last attempt was a sort of vegetarian version in the sense that I, used a veggie broth, cooked everything separately, and served all the meat in side dishes. This isn't the best way to do paella. What makes paella great is the flavors that the various ingredients infuse into the rice, especially the shellfish. To do this, you need to either cook the shellfish with the rice or use the broth from cooking the shellfish to flavor the rice.

I used a recipe that I got off the internet, I don't remember the link, but the ingredients were rice, onions, garlic, tomatoes, peas, saffron, chicken stock, clam juice, chicken legs, jumbo shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, spanish chorizo, salt and pepper. Just google Paella for a more precise recipe.

Start cooking the proteins separately. You don't want to cook everything to completion since you will finish off the paella in the oven. I roast the chicken with some olive oil, salt and pepper.
And saute the shrimp, chorizo, and scallops. If you cook the this stuff in the paella pan first, you minimize the dishes that you need to clean, and all of the leftover drippings will stay in the pan and help flavor the rice. Cook the chorizo last since it will leave a red oil that will stain that shrimp and scallops. If you want to, you can also steam the mussels and clams separately. This is what I did. An advantage of this is that you can use the liquid from steaming the shellfish to flavor the rice. A drawback is that you finish the shellfish long before the rice is done, so by the time everything is complete, the clams and mussels are a little dried out. The next time I make this, I might just try adding the clams and mussels when I throw the paella in the oven and baking it long enough for the shellfish to open up.
After you are done cooking the shrimp, scallops, and chorizo, add the onions and garlic to the paella pan and saute over medium heat until translucent. Stir in the rice and tomatos until everything is coated with oil.
Meanwhile, heat up some liquid (I used a mix of chicken stock and clam juice) with a healthy pinch of saffron. Add the liquid to the rice mixture and cook, stirring occasionally until the rice is al dente. Keep adding liquid if the rice dries out. When the rice is ready, stir in the chorizo and peas and arrange the shrimp, scallops, chicken, clams, and mussels around the pan.
Finish cooking in the oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

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