Paella

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I love Spanish food and their whole idea of tapas.  It’s a great idea to have little bites of food instead of getting full on main dishes.  Often when I go to restaurant, I want to order 5-10 items, but I can’t because that’s unreasonable (Sigh. If only it was possible).  However, in Spanish restaurants you can order 5-10 dishes!! It’s MAGICAL.

The last couple weeks of culinary school involved cooking different types of cuisines every day.  We learned a lot including Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Peruvian, Mexican, Indian and of course Spanish food!  One of my favorite dishes is paella (and also patatas bravas, which we also learned), so when it came to assigning who was going to do which dish, I jumped at the chance to learn paella.

I’ve always thought it would be difficult and time consuming with multiple steps and special pans required to complete the task.  There are special paella pans, but those really aren’t necessary.  You can just use a big pan and then put it in the oven!

The whole process is fairly simple, but I would recommend using good stock as that is what you will cook the rice in.  Fish or vegetable stock will suffice.  Vegetable stock is super easy to make from scratch, fish stock requires the bones which you may or may not have.  For an easy veg stock – dice up onion, garlic, carrot and celery and sweat them in a pan for 5-10 minutes.  Then add in the water (and if you want the bouquet garni – peppercorn and parsley) and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Alternatively – I like making prawn stock.  My suggestion is if you will make seafood paella and you are buying shrimps/prawns – buy them on the shell.  The shells make a beautiful stock and it is fairly simple.  So for this stock you:

Take off the shells and head of the prawns, put them in a pan and sweat them whilst crushing them.  You sweat and crush them for around 10 minutes.  Once they have softened, you cover with water and let that simmer.   After 30 minutes to an hour, take an immersion blender and blend everything together.  Not all the shells will blend perfectly, but most of them will.  Strain this and use this stock!  You can use this for risotto, prawn bisque and others as well (freeze any excess!).

So for the paella recipe: 

Ingredients: This yields quite a big serving of paella – 6-8 people

If you want to bake the paella – have the oven at 180 celsius.  Remember to use a big enough pan to fit everything in comfortably.

Seafood that you want for the paella – this one has squid, prawns, mussels and clams.  You could also use chicken/chorizo if you want and just make sure to cook those before you add them in.

Rice (bomba rice) – 200 grams
Red and green pepper – 100 grams each
Garlic – 5 grams
Tomato paste – 200 grams
Stock – 400 grams
Paprika – 1-2 teaspoons
Saffron – A couple of pinches
Salt – 1-2 teaspoons

Instructions:

Cut the peppers in julienne and slice the garlic, then sauté in olive oil using the pan you will cook the paella in, until the garlic is golden, then set this aside.

Using the same pan – you can sauté the squid (and chicken if you are using this), then set aside.

In this same pan, add the rice and the tomato paste and sweat for 1 minute.

Add the stock, saffron, salt, paprika, garlic and peppers and mix this a little so everything is combined. (Stock recipe is above)

Arrange the seafood on top of the paella as you want it to be served, and bring the rice/stock mixture to a boil.  Then you cover the paella dish with foil.

You can either put this in the oven for 30 minutes (check after 20 to see how the rice is cooking, if it is getting soft to see how much more time it needs).  OR you can keep it on the stove and simmer this for 20 minutes.  If you want to use the stove, make sure that the heat is accessing all of the pan because you don’t mix around the paella to cook (like risotto) – you leave it be to cook itself.

Once you have cooked it long enough so the rice is the texture you want.  Remove from heat and serve!

To be honest, it can take some time in the oven, perhaps longer than 30 minutes depending on how much rice is there.

Here is a picture of the paella on the stove (before I put it in the oven) with everything arranged on it neatly.  You can see the stock is covering all the rice.  Once it is ready, the rice would have absorbed all of the stock.

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