Monday, May 26, 2008

Spanish Recipe of the Week: Seafood Paella

There are so many different varieties of paella in Spain – mixed (with seafood and meat), seafood only, vegetarian, rabbit… Here I’m giving you a simplified recipe for Valencian seafood paella. Be warned that eating paella the right way can be a bit messy. The Spanish don’t typically use a knife and fork to eat seafood in the shell – they just crack the shrimp or mussels open with their hands. (They also use their hands to deal with chicken, rabbit, or other meat on the bone in paella.)

I was taught that the correct method to eat shrimp in the shell in Spain is to first rip the head off, then the tail, and then the legs, making it easier to peel back the shell from the body. Most Spanish people like to suck what I call “the goo” out of the heads of the shrimp, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

It’s best if you have an authentic paella (the name of the pan used to make paella, funnily enough!) but in the absence of that, you can just use a large pan. If you want to invest in a good paella pan, there are a number of stores in the UK and America that sell Spanish products online.

Paella Marinera (Valencian Seafood and Rice)

Ingredients (for 4 people):
-- ½ cup of olive oil
-- 1 cup of large shrimp (with shells, head, legs and all)
-- 1 medium red pepper, diced
-- 2/3 cup peas
-- 1 cup of calamari (squid) rings
-- 1 clove of garlic
-- 1 small bunch of fresh parsley
-- 6 or 7 threads of saffron
-- A pinch of salt
-- Just under 2 1/4 cups of rice (500 grams)
-- 2 to 3 cups of seafood stock (or water)
-- 1 cup of clams (in the shell)

-- Heat the olive oil in a paella (or equivalent pan) and sauté the shrimp on medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and set them aside.
-- Add the diced red pepper, peas, and squid to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes.
-- Mash the garlic, parsley, saffron, and salt together. Incorporate this mixture into the pan.
-- Add the rice and seafood stock or water. Cook for 10 minutes.
-- Add the clams and continue to cook until most of the liquid is gone.
-- Place the cooked shrimp on top and remove from the heat.

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