Go ahead: Toss some peas in your seafood paella

Paella, featured in this blog’s previous post, often is presented in the United States almost like an “everything pizza,” to quote a recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Whereas American attempts at this Spanish staple may boast sausage, chicken, shrimp, mollusks, tomatoes, olives, peppers and peas all in the same dish, Spanish versions contain many fewer ingredients. Food writer Daniel Neman confirms that the most traditional recipe from Valencia uses rabbit and snails. So he, unapologetically, used seafood instead. And contrary to experts’ assertions that real paella never contains peas, he threw those in, too.

Here is the Post-Dispatch’s adaptation from a popular Spanish cookbook.

Tribune News Service photo

Paella de Simone Ortega

12 ounces raw shrimp, shells on

2 cups chicken stock

2 pounds mussels or 1 pound littleneck, steamer or cherrystone clams

3/4 cup olive oil or much less, as necessary

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

3 tablespoons tomato sauce, or 1 large, ripe tomato, chopped

2 small squid, cut into 1/4-inch rings

2 1/2 cups long-grain rice

3 sprigs fresh parsley

Pinch of saffron threads

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips

Salt, as needed

Lemon wedges, for serving

Peel the shrimp and reserve shells. Set shrimp aside. Put shells into a pan, add the chicken stock (and water, if necessary) to cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain stock into a bowl, discarding shells. If using mussels that have not been precleaned, scrape shells with blade of a knife and remove “beards,” then scrub under cold running water. If using clams, scrub under cold, running water. Discard any clams or mussels with broken shells or any that do not shut immediately when sharply tapped.

Put cleaned clams or mussels in a pan or skillet, add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook over high heat for 3 to 6 minutes, until shells have opened. Remove mussels or clams with a slotted spoon, reserving cooking liquid. Discard any shells that remain closed. Remove nearly all mussels and clams from their shells, but leave a few in shell for garnish.

Strain reserved cooking stock into shrimp stock, using a strainer lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Add enough water, if necessary, to make 7 1/2 cups. Pour into a pot and heat gently, but do not let boil.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Pour just enough of the oil into a paella pan or very large, heavy skillet with a metal handle to cover base and heat it. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, for about 7 minutes. Add the tomato sauce or fresh tomato and cook, stirring continuously, for a few minutes.

Reserve a few shrimp for garnish and add remainder to pan with the squid rings and rice. Cook, stirring continuously, until squid becomes opaque. Add shelled mussels or clams. Season with a pinch of the salt and pour in hot stock. Gently shake pan to make sure liquid is evenly distributed.

Pound the parsley with the saffron in a mortar, or process in a mini-food processor. Mix in with 2 tablespoons water, and add to paella pan. Add the peas. Gently stir with a wooden spoon. Garnish paella with the strips of red bell pepper, reserved shrimp and reserved shellfish in shells.

Cook in preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with the lemon wedges hung over side of pan.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “1080 Recipes,” by Simone and Inés Ortega.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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