About once or twice a year, we make a big paella for friends. The occasion for this one was for our friends Daniel and Rebecca who run the Tootsie Truck in Knoxville. They had returned from a seafood run to Florida and wanted to know if we wanted to share in the haul…the answer is always YES when someone has fresh seafood they want to share.
Paella isn’t all that hard. You just have to prepare well. Have all your ingredients chopped and portioned out. Any and all of what we used, can be interchanged with ingredients available to you. Even if you don’t like seafood, you can use just sausages (Spanish Chorizo works as wonderfully as Benton’s Country Ham!). Use vegetables that are on hand. We were lucky to have a lot of fresh veggies from our CSA box so we used many of those.
We’d been collecting trimming from vegetables all year in a big bag in the freezer and made a rich vegetable stock a couple days before the paella.
To start, get yourself a paella pan. They aren’t all that expensive, but are designed to make your life a lot easier. If you just don’t have one, use a large cast iron skillet. We’ve done that before. You’re looking for something that will give you the crunchy layer on the bottom, called the socarrat. I continually felt for this with a knife throughout the cooking to make sure it was forming.
20 or so strands of Saffron
1 Chicken, cut into 8ths
2lbs Shrimp (we had a LOT of seafood… you don’t need to use this much!)
2 small crabs
1 Medium Onion, diced
1 Bell pepper (or Pimento)
1 Cup Green Beans (because they were in season)
2 Artichokes cleaned and cut into bite size pieces
2 Medium Tomatoes, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 Cups Bomba short-grain rice
4 Cups Vegetable Stock (or seafood stock or chicken stock)
1/2 Cup White Wine
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
2 Fresh Rosemary sprigs
Wrap saffron in aluminum foil. Heat paella pan to medium-high heat on a backyard grill or stovetop. Place aluminum foil wrapped saffron in pan and toast for 30 seconds per side. Remove and set aside.
Add 1 tsp salt to pan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook chicken, skin side down, until very crisp and golden brown. Flip chicken. Add onion and bell pepper and cook 2-3 minutes. Add beans and cook 2-3 minutes. Add artichoke. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and smoked paprika. Sauté until reduced by half. Add rice, stock and saffron.
STIR ONLY ONCE to coat rice. Resist the urge to stir any more! You’re not making risotto! Cook 12 minutes. Add seafood starting with the thickest or what needs the longest time to cook. In our case, it was the thick delicious grouper filets followed by the crab, then the shrimp. You can tell when the crab and shrimp are done when they turn color. Add wine to create steam. Embrace your OCD and take a knife or form and go vertically through your ingredients and check to see if the socarrat is forming (don’t really do this, although I did!). We also dropped some fresh rosemary on the top.
Cook until liquid is gone and serve with lemon wedges.