How To: Make Authentic But Easy Paella
I made some new mom friends from PickyKidPix’s trip to Italy to play soccer! My friend Nathalie is originally from Spain and she taught me how to make authentic paella. In this version, she was clear that this is authentic Valencia paella which features seafood since it’s a coastal town.
There are many versions that utilize the bounty of their particular area which can include rabbit, chicken, and chorizo sausage. But this version does not; strictly seafood — squid, small shrimp, and scallops but those tiny octopi would be good too. She also made her own seafood stock by boiling cod in water with onions, bay leaf, and salt but she said an easy substitute is canned chicken stock. That works even if you are not adding chicken.
As for quantity, paella is meant to feed a crowd. She made enough for 10-12 (in her mind) but it really was enough to feed at least 15. Paella is great like that for stretching; you simply add more rice.
She was specific about her ingredients too.
rice: she prefers long grain white rice
saffron: she uses spice packs which she buys in Spain but you can also use 1/2 teaspoon of saffron. The spice packs are available at Amazon too.
olive oil: extra virgin but it doesn’t have to be from Spain. Trader Joe’s has Spanish olive oil though!
olives: these must be Spanish because they are the right size and flavor. I found mine at Trader Joe’s too!
peas: any small frozen peas will do, but keep them frozen in the freezer until you need them so they don’t get mushy in the pan. You want them rock-solid frozen when you add them to the paella
roasted bell peppers: you can roast and then julienne red bell peppers and then lay on top of the paella at the end for a stunning design. We were hungry and opted out of that.
seafood: get whatever is fresh but do cut up in small 1/2 inch chunks so that it’s easy to combine with the rice.
Step 1: Prep
The idea here to chop everything into roughly the same size pieces before you heat the paella pan.
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound squid – cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound small shrimp – peel and de-vein
1 pound small scallops – cut into 1/2 inch pieces
rice – one small handful per person
tomatoes – 3 medium tomatoes, minced
Jarred Spanish olives – about 1/2 cup or to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
saffron or spice packet. If you are using saffron, put 1/2 teaspoon saffron into a small bowl with ¼ cup hot water and let sit for 15 minutes.
Heat to a boil and then simmer for about twenty minutes.
1 pound cod (or other mild white fish)
3 quarts water
salt to taste
1 bay leaf
Cooking the Paella
Step 1: Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil using medium high heat.
Step 2: Add the Sofrito (garlic, onions and bell peppers) that you chopped into small pieces. Sauté for a few minutes until onion is softened.
Step 3: Add the seafood.
Step 4: Add the tomatoes.
Step 5: Add the seasoning packet or the saffron. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Step 7: Ladle in the broth to nearly cover the rice. Turn heat down to medium-low.
Step 8: Add the olives and then add in handfuls of peas. Keep adding broth as needed. While you can’t stir the food, you can move small piles around slightly just to make sure they are covered in broth. I tamp down the rice that isn’t covered in broth to submerge it. Rotate the pan if you are using more than one burner to distribute the heat evenly.
Nathalie says you can take the paella off the heat and cover with newspaper or aluminum foil for five minutes but we skipped that part because we were hungry and the rice was perfect. It’s really important to make sure that the rice is fully cooked.
Step 10: Serve with lemon wedges and eat immediately! (Note that my friend Nathalie uses limes which are not common in Spain but taste more like the lemons there.)
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