Thursday, January 8, 2015

Paella for a Party

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First off, Happy New Year!  This year I am resolving to throw more dinner parties.  I am kicking it off with this Paella recipe that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.  I am also going to go to the gym in the, really. 

Most of the time, I am the kind of home cook that looks for recipes that don't require me to restock my pantry with obscure or random ingredients.  I save the super complicated dishes for the experts.  But every once in a while, you have to make paella. 

For me, making paella was a massive investment - both in dollars and in time.  First I had to find the perfect paella recipe.  Of course no recipe reminded me exactly of my Spanish study-abroad host-mother's, so I had to combine a few different versions I found online.  I was also cooking for pescatarian friends, so I omitted all of the meat and made this an entirely seafood version.  Then I had to find all of the component parts.  I ordered this paella pan - so I could make enough for leftovers.  

For the ingredients, I had to travel to a couple of groceries and shop online to get what I needed -- but it was worth the effort.  Here's what I used:

3 cups of Calasparra Rice (higher in starch than regular white rice) 
12 cups of seafood broth [mixture of clam juice and seafood stock] 
1/2 lb shrimp - peeled and deveined 
1/2 lb clams - scrubbed clean and dried
1/4 lb calamari - cleaned, ink sak removed, and cut into small rings
1/2 vidalia or yellow onion - diced
3 garlic cloves - minced 
2 pinches of saffron
1 Tbsp tomato paste 
2 tsp smoked paprika 
1/2 cup of frozen peas 
extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp kosher salt 

First, saute the shrimp in a small pan. Season the shrimp with salt & pepper and place directly into the pan with the olive oil.  Cook until pink halfway up the shrimp.  Don't cook the other side. Remove the half-cooked shrimp from the pan and set aside for later. 

Next, heat the seafood broth in a large pot until simmering.  I used 4 cups of clam juice and 8 cups of seafood stock.  Add a pinch of saffron to the simmering broth.  Because the calasparra rice is so high in starch, you need 4 cups of broth per 1 cup of rice.  Keep this pot simmering until you've made the sofrito-more on that next.  

Then break out the paella pan (or your largest frying pan).  Your first step is to make what is referred to as the 'sofrito' - a mix of onions, garlic, tomato paste, and paprika.  Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat the pan over medium heat.  Saute the diced onion until transluscent.  Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant - about 30 seconds.  Be careful not to let the garlic burn - it cooks quickly!  Add in the tomato paste, kosher salt, paprika, and an extra pinch of saffron here for good measure.
Add the rice into the paella pan with the sofrito and stir until the sofrito has coated the rice.

Then slowly (and incrementally) add the liquid to the paella pan. I was worried about overflow, so I added about 3-4 cups at a time and cooked it down a bit to make room for the next batch. 

Once you've added all of the liquid to the paella pan, cook the rice over medium-high heat. DO NOT STIR the rice at this point.  The goal here is to create the "soccarrat" - the caramalized crust on the bottom of the pan that adds tons of flavor and gives the rice its famous crispiness.  I know it is against all of your instincts, but seriously DO NOT STIR the rice.  Let it be for 10 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.  

While the rice is cooking, steam the clams. Place 2 inches of water in a sauce pan, add the clams into the water, and cover.  Bring the water to a boil and cook the clams until the shells open up. Throw out any clams that did not open.  
Once the liquid is almost entirely absorbed into the rice, it's time to add the seafood and the peas.  Nestle the steamed clams and the peas directly into the rice and cook for another 8 minutes. 

Finally, add the raw calamari and shrimp into the rice -- placing the shrimp cooked side up. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until the shrimp is completely pink and cooked through. 

Stand back, admire your hard work, snap some intagram pics to show off, and then dig in!  

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