Paella is a traditional Spanish dish which is found in South America as well as the country of Spain. Ideally prepared in a low-cut "paellera," pealla has the advantage of including whatever you like - rabbit, beef, seafood, vegetables, etc.

Serves Six

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, boiled until soft and cut into strips
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 100g peas, cooked
  • 200g prawns (if using cooked prawns substitute fish stock for the water)
  • 200g small clams
  • 200g squid
  • 12 mussels
  • 350g rice (traditionally short grain rice is used but I prefer to use long grain)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • a pinch of saffron strands (if you can’t get saffron, use yellow food colouring instead and add it once you have added the liquid)
  • a sprig of parsley, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • about 800ml water
Preparation:

MUSSELS: Wash the mussels and take care to remove the feet/hairs. Throw away any that don’t shut on contact with water.
GARLIC: In a pestle and mortar, grind the garlic, saffron (if using), parsley and a pinch of salt.
CLAMS: Wash in water and then put in a bowl with some salt so that the grit comes out. Throw away any that are open.
FRESH SQUID: Rub off the outer dark skin. Pull out the insides (including the transparent back bone) and pinch the eye away from the tentacles. Save the tentacles. Cut the squid into rings.
PRAWNS: Whether you peel them or not is up to you. If you decide to peel them, save the shells and boil in water for about ten minutes. Save the liquid and add later instead of water.

Recipe

Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion, green pepper and carrot and fry gently for about five minutes. Add the chopped tomato and squid (with the tentacles) and fry on a low heat for another ten minutes.
Add the rice and stir well to make sure that it is thoroughly coated. Add water (or the water from boiling the prawn shells or fish stock if using frozen fish), clams and the garlic/saffron/parsley mixture and bring to the boil. Season with salt. Put a lid on it, turn the heat right down and cook very slowly for about ten minutes. Add the prawns and peas and give it a stir. Arrange the mussels and strips of red pepper artistically on top, put the lid back on and leave for another ten minutes - checking that it has enough water. If you think it is getting too dry, add more water, but shake the handle of the pan rather than stir so as not to upset the pattern. Once the rice is cooked and the mussels have opened, it is ready to eat.

Nodeshell filling shamelessly ripped from my olde Spanish textbook
A Spanish rice dish. The two essential ingredients are short grained rice and saffron. These are combined with some form of pork, chicken, fish and shellfish. Its also customary to have a mirepoix of peppers, onions and garlic.

The cook determines the exact combination of the animal ingredients, and it is in their selection that the dish is personalized. Once you make a paella you enjoy, it becomes yours, you own it, and no one else's paella can exactly compete. In this way, paella is very similar to chili.

If you invest enough time in paella, you convince yourself, provided you are not Spanish, that you must have an actual Spanish person eat it. You do this because you need to validate your particular paella; you need to confirm that it is bona fide.

So you will invite a Spanish person to dinner, to eat your paella, compliment you, and validate your taste. Perhaps this person is a co-worker, a neighbor, an in-law. It doesn't matter.

As they enter the house, this Spanish person and his wife, you feel a bit nervous: what if they don't like the paella? Is it even remotely like the paella they have had in Vallencia? or Havana? Maybe they're not Spanish but Cuban. Is Cuban pallea the same as Vallencian paella?

You take their coats and invite them into the dining room. The paella is nearly complete - its a one pot meal, and keeps very well, so everything is prepared. You have even secured a good bottle of sherry. Not just any sherry: Hildalgo Doloroso Especial. This sherry is a fine Spanish dry sherry, nothing like the sweet cream sherries most Americans know, sweet cream sherries imposed on us by the taste of the British. No, this is fine sherry, dry and complex, something the Spanish people will appreciate. You have been told in no uncertain terms that paella is always accompanied by sherry in Spain.

As you seat the Spanish man and his wife, this bottle of sherry sits in the center of the table. You ask the Spanish man what he wants to drink, a formality, since he will obviously enjoy the sherry with his paella. The Spanish man says something not entirely understandable. His accent is thick. You can't make it out, but at first it sounds Germanic. It does not sound like a Romance language. He repeats it, two or three times. Its a guttural word, one syllable. Its definitely not "sherry". This man is Cuban, he has not been to America for 23 years, he has not been allowed to travel. He is asking for something he had in America 23 years ago, something he remembers fondly, something he wants to drink with his paella.

You realize this man is saying "Pabst".

All your illusions vanish. You understand that paella is just so many syllables; perhaps it is really just chicken with rice, in Valencia: Arroz con Pollo. You don't have Pabst. You have not prepared for this eventuality; no one ever wrote that a true Spaniard, a Valencian, a Havanan, eats his paella with Pabst.

After a quick trip to the refrigerator you start to relax, you start to enjoy this man's company, notice that his wife is charming, that he has a lot to say. He tips his Rolling Rock and you listen to the music of his wife's accent, as the paella slips away, to the (faint)accompaniment of Valencian castanets.

Carla’s PAELLA recipe - Serves 6 – 10

Serve with French bread, blush wine, salad (Italian or vinaigrette dressing). Desert should be flan.

INGREDIENTS

  • Chicken can use wings (little drummets) 4 – 6 , or just breasts ¼ large meaty breast per person
  • Chorizo 6 chubby links – take out of skin and break
    into bite size pieces - Can do this the night before and store in refrigerator
  • Pork –1 tenderloin cut into ¾" pieces or pork chops – 1 per person – can do the night before
  • Shrimp – 2 – 3 lbs (with shells on) deveined and cleaned – save shells – can do ahead of time and freeze
  • Lobster tails – large frozen ones are fine – figure 1 tail per 2 people who like lobster – shell stays on
  • White wine – Sutton House is fine – 1 bottle
  • Chicken broth – 3 cups Campbell’s
  • Saffron – 1 small package - about 1 tsp.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 – 2 cups
  • Pimento – ½ smallest jar
  • Red pepper – 1 sliced – large – (can slice night before and store in zip lock bag in refrigerator)
  • Green pepper – 1 sliced – large – (can slice night before
    and store in zip lock bag in refrigerator)
  • Red onion – 1 sliced – medium size – (can slice night
    before and store in zip lock bag in refrigerator)
  • Garlic – 1 whole head minced – (can mince night before and store in zip lock bag in refrigerator)
  • Tomatoes canned – 2 cans already chopped type 14.5 ounces size
  • Artichoke hearts 1 can (not marinated) be sure to clean the choke off (OK to clean the night before)
  • Peas – 1 small can
  • Rice – 3 cups
  • Butter – ½ stick

PREPARATION

  • Clean shrimp, prepare veggies , chorizo, chicken and pork
  • Fry chicken, pork until seared and golden to brown then put to the side.
  • Fry peppers, onions until limp, add garlic until just golden (don’t burn garlic, it gets bitter) and put to the side.
  • Fry chorizo until fat is rendered and add meat and veggies back to pan. Frying chorizo loosens up the brown, sticky bits in the pan.
  • Don’t clean pan in between unless something has been burnt.
  • Mix everything and add tomatoes to the frying pan.
  • Bring to boil then simmer until meat is cooked through.
  • Use as little olive oil as you can to be able to fry everything.
  • Can do up to here ahead of time and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Meanwhile boil clean shrimp shells, strain the water well and soak saffron in the shrimp water. Want about 1 – 2 cups shrimp water left after straining. If you don’t have shrimp shells then heat up chicken broth and soak the saffron in it.
  • Heat chicken broth and wine (I like about 50/50 ratio) – will need 6 – 9 cups of liquid total – rewarm saffron water if needed
  • Fry rice in butter until golden. Add to saffron water first then add veggies/meat mixture and 50/50 broth/wine mixture all right into paella dish. Cover with tin foil.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes
  • Add lobster tails with tails pointing outward and bury the tails under rice and cook for 15 minutes more – covered
  • Add shrimp and artichoke hearts. Push slightly down into rice but don’t quite bury. Lift lobsters tails so they show a little bit. Try to arrange things artistically at this point.
  • Cook for 15 minutes more - covered
  • Remove from oven, let sit about 10 minutes. Garnish with heated peas and pimentos if desired.
  • Serve from the paella dish at the table – before serving but after presentation remove lobster tails, let cool briefly on own platter and then cut in half lengthwise with kitchen shears and remove the meat, pass the lobster platter separately.

Vegetarian Paella

Having recently come back from a holiday in Seville, I had a hankering for paella. Unfortunately, my girlfriend is vegetarian, so I came up with this alternative vegetarian version. So far, I've cooked it 5 times for friends and family and everyone has loved it! The quantities here make enough for 4 people. Don't forget the french bread (or flat garlic bread), wine and side salad.

Ingredients

You'll also need a big pan with a flat base (or a wok at a push).

Instructions

  1. Put the saffron and hot water in a small bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan or a paella pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more.
  2. Add the rice and stir for about 1 minute, until the grains are coated in oil. Add the stock, tomatoes, saffron and soaking water to the pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer, shaking the pan frequently and stirring the mixture occasionally, for 15 minutes.
  3. Stir the mushrooms, French beans and pinto beans with their can juices. Cook for 5 minutes. Cut the lemon into 4 pieces and place on the top of the paella to cook slightly. Cook for 5 minutes and serve the lemon with the paella.

Swap added: "It was good, but next time, I think I'll strain the bean juices first. I think the juice obscured a bit saffron's starring role."

Please try it and let me know what you think ;)

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