Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica, Central America
Paella Step by Step
In response to another paella thread posted under seafood, I promised to post my paella recipe and technique. Here it is:
Mixed Seafood Paella Step by Step
This recipe was developed for a 15” (38cm) paella pan and serves six people. Traditionally, paella is prepared outdoors on a wood or charcoal fire or on a gas burner made for the purpose. Alternatively, it can be prepared on a gas stove top in the kitchen, but you'll need to move it around on the burner from time to time while cooking to even the heat. Paella pans have a slightly rounded bottom and don't fit well on electric or smooth top stoves. If you don't have a paella pan, you can use a large shallow skillet or divide it into two skillets. In any event, try not to overload your pan. Paella is cooked uncovered and the cooked rice should only be an inch or so thick, perhaps less, to cook properly and produce the right consistency. Likewise, the quantity of seafood and other ingredients should complement and enhance the flavor and balance of the finished paella, not smother and overpower it.
1 medium onion
1 red or green pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley
Salt and pepper
2 springs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes, or one can whole tomatoes (You need cup of tomato pulp)
A generous pinch Spanish saffron (12 to 15 threads)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (smoked Spanish paprika if possible)
A little achiote paste or similar colorant (optional). Don't use food coloring or turmeric.
½ cup olive oil
2 cups medium-grain rice
4 cups chicken and/or seafood stock
A few artichoke hearts and/or green peas
1 small jar pimento
6 oz. mild chorizo (or ham or pork loin, cubed)
¾ lb large shrimp (21-25 count)
½ lb calamari rings and/or ½ lb fish fillet (any fairly thick, firm white fleshed fish will do)
12 to 18 small clams and/or mussels
6 pieces chicken (thighs, legs or wings)
***IMPORTANT: None of the amounts of meats and seafood are exact. They are more of a buying guide. I always buy and prep more than I use in the final recipe and add them until the paella looks right. Remember, you don't want to overload the pan or smother the paella with other ingredients.
Step One: Prep chorizo and meats
Slice chorizo or cut pork into cubes. Season pork and chicken with salt, pepper and oregano. Set aside until needed.
Step Two: Prep sofrito
Finely chop the onion and pepper. Mince the garlic. Chop the parsley. If using fresh tomato, cut in half and grate on the course side of a box grater, discarding the skin. If using canned, drain off excess juice and chop or crush the tomatoes. Don't mix the tomato into the other ingredients.
Step Three: Prep seafoods
Shell shrimp, reserving shells. Clean clams. Clean and de-beard mussels. Cut calamari in rings. Cut fish into chunks. Refrigerate shrimp, calamari and fish until needed..
Step Four: Steam clams and mussels
Bring one cup salted water to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Add clams and mussels. Cover and steam for about 5 to 7 minutes. Discard any that don't open. Remove from pot. Strain and reserve liquid.
Step Five: Make the stock
Add shrimp shells to the clam/mussel broth. Add any fish trimmings, etc. Add chicken or fish stock to make 4 cups liquid. Optionally, add a bouillon cube for more flavor (seafood or chicken). Cook 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Strain the stock. Pour ½ cup stock into a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Add 12-15 threads of crushed saffron and a little paprika or achiote. Let stand 10-15 minutes then recombine with the remaining stock. Taste the stock and add more salt and other seasonings if needed. You need the stock to be flavorful since this is what flavors your rice.
Step Six: Cook meats and chorizo
While stock is simmering, cook the chicken (and pork) until well-browned, about 8 minutes, then add chorizo and cook another couple of minutes. Remove and set aside.
Step Seven: Cook sofrito
In the same pan, without cleaning it, add a little more olive oil if needed. Saute onion, pepper, garlic and parsley until soft (about 10 minutes). Add tomato and paprika. Cook until liquid evaporates and the sofrito thickens to the consistency of jam, mashing with the back of a spoon to puree it. This should also de-glaze the pan. Remove and set aside until needed.
Step Eight: Cook shrimp, calamari and fish
Lightly salt all the seafoods. Cook shrimp in olive oil a couple of minutes. Add calamari and/or fish and cook another minute or two. Remove and set aside.
Step Nine: Cook the paella
Reheat the pan to medium-high. Add sofrito and the uncooked rice. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes until the rice is translucent. Add hot stock and stir to combine. This is the last time you stir it. Add chicken and pork or chorizo. Add the bay leaf. Lay the thyme sprigs on top. Bring to a low, bubbling boil and cook 10-12 minutes without stirring, moving the pan around periodically to cook evenly. Reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking uncovered another 8-10 minutes. If the rice starts getting too dry, add a little hot water but not too much. Paella rice shouldn't be too moist and never soupy, sticky or gummy. NOTE: You can wash the rice or not before cooking, depending on personal preference. If you wash it, be sure it's thoroughly drained or, even better, wash it before beginning your other prep work and leave it in the collander (shaking it from time to time) or spread it on a clean dish towel to dry a bit before using.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Reserving a few shrimp and shellfish for garnish, add the rest of the seafood, artichoke hearts and/or peas - pushing them gently into the rice with a large spoon. Don't stir! Garnish with reserved shrimp and shellfish, a few strips of pimento or roasted peppers and a few green peas. Increase heat for a minute or two to create a socorrat, the highly prized browned crust of rice at the bottom of the pan, but be careful the rice doesn't burn. Remove from heat and cover with a clean dish towel. Some people cover with aluminum foil, but this may steam the rice too much and affect the texture. If using aluminum foil, punch a few holes in it to let the excess steam escape.
"I’m going to break one of the rules of the trade here. I’m going to tell you some of the secrets of improvisation. Just remember — it’s always a good idea to follow the directions exactly the first time you try a recipe. But from then on, you’re on your own." - James Beard