Authentic seafood paella, is one of my absolute favorite dishes. While paella is popular throughout Spain and even considered its national dish, each region has its own flare and style. The original however, stems from Valencia where they add green beans, white beans, snails, sausage and meat such as rabbit and chicken. No matter the region, the season (which impacts the produce added) or the style such as vegetarian, seafood, mixed or Valencian, each paella has saffron infused rice at its delicious core.
While I adore vegetarian paella, this seafood paella recipe, which I have been tweaking for a decade since my last culinary adventure in Spain, is really an all-time favorite. When I close my eyes and enjoy every mouthful I am transported back. I hope you enjoy and create the same wonderful visions of seaside of Malaga.
Things to know before you start making any paella.
- It is really important for making any paella, to have a proper paella pan that is wide, round, and shallow. You want that wide surface area on the bottom of the pan (made with a conductive metal) because you want maximize the amount of rice that touches the bottom of the pan. My paella pan is from Williams-Sonoma and is a work-horse.
- Choosing the right kind of rice is extremely important. Ideally, you should use a Spanish short-grain rice called Bomba, but in a pinch you can use arborio rice. This is because you want a rice that not only absorbs liquid and flavor well, but also remains firm.
- Make sure you use a great cooking liquid. Homemade stock is best, but if you choose to purchase stock, make sure that it is a culinary stock (which has a lot more flavor), not a broth.
- When you get to a certain point in the recipe, you need to resist the temptation to stir. I know that can be hard for many, but if you don't heed the warning, you will not create the beautiful socarrat, which is the crispy rice crust that forms on the bottom of the pan and is what makes a paella, so irresistibly delicious and is the signature of a well-made paella.
- Invest in genuine saffron. I know that it is a luxurious ingredient, but a little goes a long way and imitation saffron is just not worth it. Saffron threads are the dried stamins of purple crocus flowers that grow in the Mediterranean, especially in Spain and Greece. Saffron threads are meticulously gathered by hand, which is why they are so expensive.
- Finally, use a good white wine- one that you will drink. The best wines to use are dry whites that are un-oaked. The oak in some chardonnays can have a bad reaction to the saffron and kills the beautiful delicate flavor. This does neither your wine nor the saffron justice.
So know you know the basics, but the most important thing to add to a great paella is passion and love- it comes through in the flavors! Enjoy!
- 1 medium Spanish onion, diced
- ¼ cup EVOO, plus more as needed
- 4 cloves garlic smashed & chopped into paste
- 2 Roma tomatoes peeled and chopped
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 5 cups fish stock or chicken stock
- 1 cup dry white wine
- ¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or pimenton dulce (sweet paprika)
- 2 ¼ cups short-grain Spanish rice, such as Bomba or Arborio in a pinch
- 1 cup shelled English peas
- ½ cup poblano pepper, finely diced
- 4 cleaned small squid, bodies sliced into ¼-in wide rings, tentacles left whole
- 12 jumbo shrimp, deveined but in shells
- 1 pound of mussels, clams or cockles (whichever is in season) scrubbed
- ¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 5 sprigs thyme
- kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
- In a medium saucepan, combine stock and wine and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Heat 15-inch paella pan or large enameled cast-iron casserole over medium heat.
- Add EVOO then onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic, poblano and paprika and cook until fragrant, and before garlic begins to color add tomatoes, saffron, sugar and salt to taste.
- Stirring well, cook until tomatoes are reduced to a jammy sauce and oil is sizzling. Add more EVOO if necessary.
- Add squid and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.
- Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes until the rice is almost translucent.
- Stir in stock/wine, thyme & season with salt and pepper. Stir a few times to ensure rice is spread out over pan.
- STOP stirring now to allow socarrat to form on bottom and sides. Rotate the pan 3 times during the rest of the process to ensure even heat.
- Reduce heat to low, and after about 10 minutes, nestle shrimp into rice.
- Add clams, cockles or mussels hinge side down and cook, turning the shrimp when they have become pink on one side, until all the shrimp and shellfish are cooked through and all of the pan liquid is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from heat, scatter peas on top and let stand for about 5 minutes.
- Garnish with parsley and lemons if desired and serve, sharing out that amazing socarrat. Enjoy!