Updated: Jan 19
Many experts say paella is all about the rice, but I say it's all about the rice, the vegetables, the meat, and the spices. After all, it's about balance, right? It's a one pot meal! It may look intimidating, but paella is actually very easy to make. It can feed a large group of people, and everyone loves it. It's also gluten free!
When I make paella, I use Arborio rice. Ideally, I would use Valencia rice (also called Bomba rice), which is a pearly short grain rice from Spain that absorbs three times its volume in water. Unfortunately, this kind of rice isn't available in regular supermarkets in the US, so I substitute with Arborio rice.
For my paella protein of choice today, I decided to use seafood. Living near the coast, I'm lucky to have access to a variety of fresh seafood year-round. I especially love soft shell crab season! I do get some items from the local farmers market, but I usually get most of my seafood at Sea Eagle Market. They offer great seafood, and the people are so friendly!
Since I cook so much, I usually make my own stock and freeze it for when I need it. My freezer is full of a wide variety of stock! For this recipe, I used homemade lobster stock. Chicken, fish, or any other seafood stock will work just as well if you don't have lobster. However, if you recently ate lobster and don't want to waste your shell, you can whip up some lobster stock while you're chopping and prepping the rest of your paella ingredients! Simply put one lobster shell, one bay leaf, some fresh parsley stems, some seaweed, and a whole onion (cut into large chunks) in a pot. Add enough water to cover the shell, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Then, presto! You have delicious lobster stock!
While paella is a very flexible dish, the most iconic spice associated with paella is saffron. It's a delicate flavor that can't be substituted. Some people call it "The king of all spices." In addition to great flavor, saffron also provides a lot of health benefits. It's been linked to helping anxiety, cancer, depression, fatigue, high blood pressure, memory loss, and many other health issues. Fortunately, you can buy it in small amounts, because a pound of dried saffron can cost about $5,000! It takes thousands of crocus flowers (some say from 50,000 - 75,000) to produce one pound of dried saffron, and the stigmas are hand-picked. It's easy to understand why it's so expensive!
Even though "real" paella is cooked on an open fire in a paella pan, don't worry if you don't have the right pan or an open fire. It's not a big deal. I used a flat skillet myself. Remember, it's all about balance and picking fresh food you love!
I always look forward to your comments, so let me know how you like this recipe in the comments!
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
Author: Inna of innichkachef.com
1½ cups Arborio rice 1 onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 tomato, chopped 2 teaspoons tomato paste 1 tablespoon sweet paprika 1 bell pepper, chopped Pinch of saffron 1 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped Salt and black pepper, freshly ground ½ cup frozen peas 1-pound mussels Half dozen littleneck clams 1 pound shrimp Crab (optional - as many as you wish; I used only one) 4 - 4½ cups of Lobster stock (chicken or fish stock will also work) Lemon zest
Crusty bread (optional for side dish)
⅓ cup chopped parsley Lemon wedges 1 tablespoon olive oil drizzle over the top (good quality oil is a must)
1. Add olive oil and onion to pan. Sauté for 5-7 min, but stop before the onion turns brown.
2. Add bell pepper, garlic, sun-dried tomato, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Stir.
3. Add rice and saffron. Please do not skip the saffron! Stir.
4. Add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Make sure the rice is thoroughly coated with the tomato sauce and blended evenly throughout the dish.
5. Start adding stock, one ladle at a time.
6. After all the stock is added, let the rice simmer for about 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid.
7. Add the clams and let simmer 2 more minutes.
8. Add mussels and shrimp. Cooking time from here will depend a little bit on the size of the shrimp. Bigger shrimp will take longer to cook, but make sure you don't overcook them or they'll taste rubbery.
9. Add peas and lemon zest.
10. Place crab on top, sprinkle with parsley, and give the pan one last good shake. Then let it simmer without stirring for about 15 minutes or until the rice is al dente.
11. When the rice looks moist and fluffy, turn the heat up for 45 seconds, just until you smell the rice toasting at the bottom. Then it's perfect.
12. Remove pan from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
13. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Drizzle with olive oil.
14. Serve with crusty bread to take this meal to the next level!