Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella

Paella is one of those iconic dishes of Spain.  Other than sopa de ajo, chorizo, and manchego cheese, I cannot name another classic Spanish dish.  Well, there’s also gazpacho, serrano ham, fried hake, and pisto Manchego.  And don’t forget the tapas.  But really, that’s about it.

I first cooked chicken paella with a college roommate whose father was Cuban – I recall he brought a special spice from home called “bijol.”  I haven’t seen that since.  This recipe calls for saffron instead of bijol, so I’ve got the obligatory yellow-colored spice bit covered.

Paella calls for a large shallow pan called a paellera, but I uses a wide bowl-shaped saucepan, and that seems to work fine.  The key is to move the pan around a bit on the stove to keep it from burning.

Start with about 1 to 1 ½ pounds of seafood.  I’ll use about ¾ pounds of shrimp (before peeling) and either ¾ pounds of scallops, or about a 12-16 mussels.  Squid is another possibility.  I’ve added ¼ cup of browned chorizo on one occasion, and that does enrich the flavor a bit.  Actually – does chorizo ever get brown? It always looks red to me.

  • 1 ½ pounds seafood
  • 1 red and 1 green pepper, roasted, peeled, and finely chopped
  • 1 red onion (medium), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 14 ½ oz. can peeled diced tomatoes (or whole, mashed with a fork)
  • 3 cups chicken or fish stock
  • 3 teaspoons paprika (smoked Spanish paprika if you can find it – I can’t)
  • 1 pinch saffron, or ½ teaspoon bijol
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

There are a lot of steps in this recipe, and several of them are simultaneous, so I’ve split them apart and created a timeline so you can have a simple picture of the required activities.  My day job is working in IT – I can’t help it.  This should take you about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, depending on your speed and efficiency in the kitchen.  Actual cooking time is about 45 minutes if you manage to char the peppers and sauté the seafood in parallel with the earlier steps.

Prep Work – 15-30 minutes

Do the prep work first by setting aside the peppers and chopping all the other vegetables, peeling shrimp, cleaning mussels, etc.  Core and deseed the peppers, and slice one side open, so they can open up into a flat sheet (like a Mercator map of the globe).  If you are fairly efficient in the kitchen, you will have about 15 minutes of spare time during the cooking to peel shrimp, slice squid, clean mussels, etc., but for peace of mind, it’s easier to do it up front.

Onions, Parsley, and 3 cloves Garlic – about 8 minutes

In your paella pan, sauté the onions, parsley, and 3 of the cloves of garlic in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 6-10 minutes until the onions are translucent.

Peppers – 10-12 minutes

While the onions are cooking, set a cookie sheet on the top rack of the oven and broil the peppers on high skin side up until the skin is charred black.  The timing depends on how high the rack is, and how hot your broiler is, but this will likely take 10-12 minutes.  Just check on it after 5 to make sure you’re on the right track.

Tomatoes and Paprika – 9 minutes

Once the onions are ready, add the tomatoes and paprika.  Continue to cook on a low simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mix is about the consistency of jam.  This will take 10 minutes or less.

Peel Peppers – about 5 minutes

The peppers should be ready to remove from the oven while this is going on, so remove those, and peel.  They can be hot for bare fingers, but tongs can do the bulk of the work while they’re cooling.  If they’ve been under the broiler long enough to completely char the skin, they should be cooked through.  Dice and set aside.  Have another skillet and/or saucepan ready for the seafood.

Rice and remaining ingredients – 10 minutes

Once the tomato mixture is complete, add the diced peppers, 1 ½ cups of medium grain white rice, and stir it together for a minute with the heat on.  The rice should be evenly distributed and coated before adding the remaining liquids.  That will be 3 cups of heated chicken or fish stock, 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt, ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of saffron threads.  Stir well and bring to a rolling simmer and cook uncovered without stirring for 10 minutes.  Note that paella is not supposed to be stirred the entire time, but you have to be good about moving the pan around the heat source to avoid burning – I compromise by stirring a bit after the first 10 minutes.  If you’re using chorizo, add that to the mix as soon as it is browned.

Sauté Seafood – 2-3 minutes

Once the final paella mix is simmering, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the 1 remaining garlic clove in another skillet, and sauté the seafood until it is barely cooked through – depending on crowding, about 1 ½ to 3 minutes.  For example, remove shrimp as soon as it turns pink, almost so early, you are worried that it may be undercooked.  Salt and pepper and set aside.

If you’re doing mussels, cook those at this time in a covered saucepan with about a half inch of simmering water until they open – about 5 minutes.  This is also the time to brown the chorizo, if you’re using that – add this to the paella as soon as it is ready.

Paella – 15 minutes

Once 10 minutes have elapsed, give the paella mix a stir and cover, lowering the heat to a low simmer for another 15 minutes.  If you have a proper paella pan, it’s not supposed to be covered, but I use a deeper saucepan and prefer to cover to cook the rice through.  Your seafood should be ready by now.  Wait 10 minutes into the final simmer, and stir in all seafood other than the mussels to the paella mix so that it cooks for the final five minutes.  If you’re adding mussels, place those on top of the paella once cooking is complete (discarding any that have not opened), then remove from heat and let rest, covered for 5 minutes before serving.

2 Responses to “Seafood Paella”

  1. harpersylvie says:

    hey it’s Harper from SMART! That paella looks amazing!! Guess what, you inspired me and i actually had paella for lunch today! i didn’t make it, just coincidentally enough they had it at whole foods today 🙂

    Great blog! look forward to reading the recipes, i need all the help i can get in this area 🙂

  2. dudecancook says:

    Hey, Harper-

    Thanks for signing in. I just completed the paella article this morning, just need to clean up and post.


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