Summer is on our doorstep, and many folks will be gathering to celebrate the warmer weather. If you happen to be throwing a casual get together, look to the Spanish and their famous and incredibly flavorful paella dish to impress your guests.
Paella originally hails from the Valencia region of Spain and is comprised of short-grained rice simmered with yellow saffron threads, vegetables and sometimes meat, seafood or a mixture of both. The type of rice is key to this dish: It must be short-grained in order to hold its shape when cooked and to properly absorb the flavored liquid. Bomba rice, grown near Calasparra, Spain, is best, but Italian arborio rice is a great substitute. With bomba rice, the liquid-to-rice ratio is three to one, while it is two to one if using arborio. The key is to not stir the rice while it is cooking so that the much-coveted, crusty, caramelized bottom layer, the socarrat (soh-kah-raht), can form.
Whether you’re sticking with just veggies (pealla vegetariana), meat (paella Valenciana), seafood (paella marisco) or a mix of all of the above (paella mixta), paella is an easy and exotic crowd-pleaser that’s perfect for a crowd or an intimate evening with friends.
A large pinch of saffron threads (about 15-20 threads)
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (4 cups if using bomba rice)
2 cups seafood stock (or sub chicken or vegetable broth)
Olive oil, as needed
1 stick (about 10 ounces) dried, Spanish-style chorizo sausage, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 bell peppers, seeds and core removed, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 cups arborio or bomba rice
1 cup dry white wine (preferably something from Spain)
2 large or 4 small lobster tails, split lengthwise
20 medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails on or off)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional: 1 cup frozen green peas
Garnish: Chopped, fresh parsley
Heat the saffron, broth, and seafood stock in a small pot over low heat on a back or side burner to infuse the saffron into the liquid. Keep this pot at barely a simmer.
Heat a large saute pan with low sides (or a 13-15 inch paella pan) over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the chorizo and let it cook for a few minutes, stirring only once or twice, to render the fat. When crispy on the outside, remove it with a slotted spoon to a plate and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.
Add the diced onion and bell peppers to the hot pan, stirring to coat them in the oil. Let the onion and peppers cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and paprika and cook for another minute, stirring to be sure to not let the garlic burn. Add in the rice, stirring to coat in oil, and let the rice grains “fry” for a minute or so, stirring occasionally.
Add the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, and let the wine cook until is has almost reduced completely. Pour in about three-quarters of the saffron-broth liquid and let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to make sure the rice cooks evenly (don’t stir the rice).
When the liquid has almost been absorbed, tuck in the lobster tails and add the cooked chorizo back to the pan. Add the remaining saffron-broth liquid. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, tuck in the shrimp and peas (if using), and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed, the shellfish is cooked, and the rice is al dente. If the rice is still a bit undercooked, pour in a little water, tent with aluminum foil, and let it cook for a few minutes more until the rice is cooked to al dente.
Let the paella sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Remove the lobster meat for your guests and add to paella or let them crack them themselves. Garnish with chopped parsley and enjoy!