Feast of the Ocean: Seafood Paella
Have you ever taken a bite of food and been transported to another time or place? If not, you're missing out. The beauty of food is that no matter how simple the dish, the culture and history behind it implodes with richness.
Look at today's dish: paella a.k.a. the dish of Spain. Everything about paella exudes Spain's refined culture: from the bomba rice of eastern Spain to the seafood of the Mediterranean. But the true beauty of paella is that it has it's own fairy tale story. Paella began as a food for laborers and farmers containing whatever they could get their hands on: rice, vegetables, game, seafood. But as people tasted the vibrant dish, the kitchen sink concoction climbed the social ladders until it became an international superstar. Like all superstars, paella lures crowds in, all wanting just a taste of greatness.
Before I continue on my tangent of the fame of paella, let me stop myself and share with you the recipe of one of my favorite dishes: seafood paella. The dish that does not require any additional plates because it's traditionally eaten straight from the pan, which is perfect for my lazy, do-not-want-to-wash-any-dishes self.
Grab all your ingredients. I'm a huge fan of seafood, so I bought extra clams and mussels fully knowing that I'll munch on them as they pop open on the pan. Also I knew that this dish would be very orange and yellow in color, so I stuck with green bell peppers (one green and one red will do too).
Toss diced onions into oiled pan. Once onions are soft and translucent, toss in the diced bell peppers for a few minutes. Then add the garlic, I add extra garlic because I hate vampires.
Add in rice, stir so that the rice is evenly coated with oil. Stir in smoked paprika and green peas. Spread rice mixture evenly on the rice because this will be the last time you touch the pan with a utensil until it's cooked. Pour in Aneto cooking base (discovering this has saved me so much time versus making the stock from scratch, which I will post a recipe of in the future). Simmer until half absorbed and place seafood in a picturesque manner because we all know you'll be taking pictures of your masterpiece in the end. Continue to simmer until seafood is cooked. I was preoccupied and forgot to take photos of these steps, which is why there's a paragraph explaining five steps without photos in between.
Remove from heat and cover pan with a sheet of foil. The hard part was keeping everyone away at this point because all anyone wanted to do was grab their fork and start eating.
Remove foil, grab your forks, and fill your bellies.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced (I prefer green bell peppers for the aesthetics)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup bomba rice
1/2 c green peas
1 carton Aneto Seafood Paella Cooking Base/Valencian Paella Cooking Base
1/2 c water + 1/2 tbsp chicken boullion
3/4 smoked paprika
1/2 lb shrimp
1/4 lb clams (about 10 clams)
1/4 lb mussels (about 10 mussels)
A dash of saffron
Toppings: chopped parsley and lemon wedges
Heat oil in paella pan (I have a 13" paella pan). Toss in onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add bell peppers and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Stirring every so often to evenly cook.
Add rice, stirring frequently to evenly coat the grains with oil.
Add peas and smoked paprika, stirring to evenly combine.
Spread out mixture so rice is evenly distributed among the pan.
Pour Aneto cooking base. DO NOT STIR MIXTURE ONCE BASE IS POURED. Simmer over medium-low heat until half of the liquid is absorbed.
Scatter seafood aesthetically over the mixture. Do not stir. Sprinkle a dash of saffron over mixture for flavor and looks. Saffron is unnecessary if you're using the Aneto cooking base, especially if you're strapped for cash. But I'm fortunately enough to receive saffron as gifts.
Continue cooking at medium-low heat for another 20 minutes until the seafood is cooked: shrimp is pink, clams and mussels opened.
If you have a lopsided stove, like me, be sure to rotate your pan occasionally during the cooking process to ensure even cooking and an evenly crispy bottom.
Remove from heat. Place an aluminum foil over the pan for approximately 10 minutes.
Remove foil and garnish with lemon wedges and chopped parsley.