The best paella is always found at beachfront restaurants, where it is generally eaten at lunchtime. A few years ago, it was hard to find good paella pans in the States, but with the rise in popularity of Spanish food, you can find them anywhere that pots and pans are sold. The best part of any paella is the socarrat—the crust that forms on the bottom of the pan, adding an extra special crunch to the saffron-scented rice. Make sure to choose a nice wide-bottomed version, because the more surface area you have, the more of this delectable treat you and your friends will get to enjoy. In Spain, only tourists eat paella at dinnertime. But hey, it’s okay to act like a tourist every once in a while.
Paella With Shellfish and Chorizo
Although Americans tend to think of paella as being only made with shellfish, any rice dish prepared in this manner bears the name. We have seen versions made with chicken, pork, morcilla (blood sausage,) and even rabbit. One of the restaurants on the beach near our house in Spain is famous for their delicious seafood paella made in a giant pan the size of a child’s swimming pool. This is our take on the classic version. In Spain, a short-grain, round rice called bomba is used, but substituting arborio rice turns this into a creamy, risotto-like dish.
Wine Pairing: Dominio De Tares Godello, Bierzo, Spain
Lemon and apple notes with a creamy mouth-feel balance nicely with the rich rice, spice, and shellfish. Godello is an indigenous Spanish grape that is almost unknown out of its home country, but we think it is worth seeking out.
Paella With Shellfish and Chorizo
2 pounds Arborio rice
2 large onions, diced
½ pound chorizo, finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 medium to large red-pepper, finely diced
10-12 cups chicken stock
1 packet Goya Sazon con Azafran(seasoning with saffron)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Tabasco or hot sauce
8 large shrimp
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat until it sizzles. Add the onion and sauté until soft and golden, lightly salting and peppering. Add Tabasco to the onion. Stir frequently so the onions don’t burn. After the onion is soft and golden, stir in the chorizo. When the chorizo is softened and starts to color the onions, add the rice to the pan and stir. Meanwhile, heat two cups of the chicken stock in the microwave in a glass measuring cup, stir in the Goya Sazon, and add in increments to the rice, stirring frequently. Add about 1/2 cup of liquid at a time, stirring until each pouring of liquid is absorbed, and then add more. (It is hard to know exactly how much liquid you will use, depending on heat and time, but it will be between 10 and 12 cups.) After about fifteen minutes of stirring in liquid, add the peppers and the peas into the rice. Total stirring time on the rice is 20-25 minutes. Stir frequently so that the rice does not stick.
Transfer rice to one large or two smaller shallow, two-handled pans, and nestle mussels, clams, and shrimp into the top of the rice. Bake in a 350 F degree oven 10 – 15 minutes, until the mussels and clams open and the shrimp are pink. Serve immediately.
Tip: To clean the mussels and clams, place in a bowl in a sink, and run cold water into the bowl. Allow to sit for a few minutes, dump out the water, and repeat. Do this several times, until you are no longer getting sand in the bottom of the bowl with each rinse. This dish looks best and makes the most sense with one mussel, one clam, and one shrimp per person, but since we sometimes find ourselves with one or two mollusks which don’t open, it might be best to have a few extra—maybe a dozen total of each—to make sure everybody gets one.
Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys LLC from THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK, published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.