Paella Mariscos de Abuelo (Grandpa’s Seafood Paella)

I think I had my first Paella at the ripe old age of like 16. The father of one of my Cuban friends, Roberto, owned a famous and very high end Cuban Restaurant on Calle Ocho in Miami. One day we were all misbehaving in such as way as to make is extraordinarily hungry (Imagine millions of locusts consuming all of the Dr. Pepper, Fritos and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on the planet in an hour). Roberto picks up the phone and makes a rather long call in Spanish.

We all piled into my other friend’s George’s turquoise ’63 Chevy and drive over to Roberto’s dads restaurant on 8th St. Roberto hops out and runs inside like a man on a sacred mission. He comes out with this huge aluminum container with about 10 lbs. of what I found out was Paella. The container was sealed but the aromas that did escape were wonderful. It was all we could do to get home to enjoy the feeding frenzy where no one would get hurt.

Since then I have had Paella all over the world and is still one of my very favorite dishes. There are several variations that include chicken, pork, rabbit, snails, and even squid ink. My favorite is simply Paella Mariscos (seafood). This reciepe does not specify fresh or frozen but if possible please use the freshest and locally obtained products that you can. This dish is worth it. The key is getting the rice cooked through.

This recipe will feed 3 pharmaceutically enhanced teenagers or 6 or so regular people.

Ingredients:

6 cups chicken or clam or seafood broth
1 tsp thread saffron***
1 1/2 pounds firm-fleshed fish, cut in bite-sized pieces
1/2 dozen mussels
1/2 dozen small clams
12 large shrimp in shells or 6 huge tiger prawns or a mix
1 lbs. Calamari/ or Baby Octopus – cleaned and chunked
1 lbs. Sea Scallops***
2 tbsp parsley, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of frozen peas
1 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
8 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 scallions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped***
1 large tomato, chopped
2 cups Bomba paella rice or Calasparra paella rice
4 or 5 pads of butter (optional)
3 Large Lemons
Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat the broth in a large pot. Stir in saffron.
  2. Clean and wash fish, shrimp, prawns, scallops and calamari. Cut Fish into bite sized chunks but leave shrimp whole. Pat fish prawns, scallops, calamari and shrimp dry between paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let sit 10 minutes.
  3. With a mortar and pestle (if you have one or just use a spoon like me) mash parsley, garlic, thyme and 1/8 tsp salt into a paste. Stir in paprika; add water if necessary to form a paste.
  4. Heat 6 tbsp of oil in 15″ paella pan over medium high heat and quickly brown the fish and scallops 1-2 minutes. Do not fully cook. Set aside.
  5. Add remaining 2 tbsp of oil, onion, scallions and bell pepper to paella pan and cook until the vegetables are slightly softened.
  6. Raise heat, add tomato and cook until it becomes sauce-like, 2 to 5 minutes.
  7. Pour in the hot broth and bring to a boil.
  8. Sprinkle the rice evenly across the pan. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring rice and rotating pan occasionally. Stir in reserved fish, calamari, scallops and frozen peas (but not shrimp or prawns). Stir in parsley paste. Taste for salt.
  9. Do not stir after this point. Lower the heat, continue to simmer until rice is no longer soupy but enough liquid remains to continue cooking the rice (about 10 min.). Add extra liquid if necessary.
  10. Arrange shrimp, prawns clams and mussels over rice, placing edges of mussel and clam shells so they open facing up. Cook, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until rice is almost done. Remove pan from the heat and cover with foil. Place the pads of butter around the top if you like a hint of buttery sweetness. Let sit 10 minutes.

I like to use 2-3 lemons to finish the dish. I do a fancy cut halving of one lemon then using my new cool “juicer-squeezy” thing, squeeze one the remaining half over the top of the Paella. Just before serving (always serve Paella in the pan, at the table), I center the first fancy cut half in the middle of the pan. I use the all the remaining lemon to provide a big wedge for each plate. Done right, this a very tasty and impressive dish for entertaining and delighting yours friends. Serve with good wine and perhaps some hot sauce for those who like a spicy finish.

***Notes:

  • There is a bit of magic that takes place when you are ready to put in the shrimp, prawns, clams and mussels. Too early and they get tough and too late and they don’t take on all of the flavors and don’t share their flavors. Good Luck!
  • In San Diego we have an excellent source of Spanish ingredients so I have used some of the “Sazonador de Paella con Azafran” (spanish for Paella seasoning with Saffron) Paella spice packets and have enjoyed the results. Saffron while expensive is generally available everywhere, so I included it. Good quality, sweet smoked paprika can be a challenge to find as well.
  • They make special Paella Pans and you can order them in the virtual global market place. They are worth the money but you can alway use that big ass frying pan you have too.
  • In stead of sautéing the red pepper, I have also used the roasted red peppers in oil from the jars with great success. The give a bit different flavor but they are cooked already so you can add them later than above.
  •  I love the flavor of sea scallops. For this dish, you would like to have small bay scollops, but if all you can find are the larger ones then Bay Scallops are fine and have wonderful flavor.