Rice is such a wonderful grain, and I love cooking it. Growing up in Africa, rice was the main staple grain that we ate, and I have loved it ever since. It’s just so versatile and there are so many different kinds of rice, and countless textures and flavors can be created with these simple kernels. From light and fluffy, to crispy, to rich and creamy. I remember the Dominican cooks I worked with in New York would cook rice in a very odd way, they would actually lightly burn the rice on the bottom of the pan to create “concon”, which gave the rice a toasty and crispy texture, really quite amazing! Risotto, so creamy, rich, and luxurious. Sushi rice, so delicate and tender, only there to help the fish shine. Congee, rice cooked beyond all recognition, and still the greatest hangover cure of all time. Etoufee, Gumbo, Fried Rice, Rice Pudding, the list is endless, and all made from such a simple ingredient. This is really what I love about food and cooking.
We will explore rice thoroughly, and this time we will discuss Paella, the traditional Spanish rice dish that has its own cooking vessel especially made for Paella, the dish is actually named for this pan as “Paella” means “pan” There are a few styles of Pealla, depending on what meats get used in them, and this can vary from seafood, veggie, meat, to my favorite, a mixture of meat and seafood. The marriage of pork, shrimp, squid, and rice is just to die for!
Paella isn’t too complicated to make, so without further ado, here’s my recipe for seafood and sausage Paella.
1/2 pound of Andouille or Chorizo sausage, sliced into rings
3 Tbsp cup olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 bunch parsley, chopped fine
1.5 Tbsp smoked Spanish Paprika
Pinch of Saffron
2 Tsp salt
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1.5 cups rice (Bomba is the traditional rice, but we used Basmati as we couldn’t find Bomba, and Arborio is a great option as well.)
3.5 cups broth or water
1 pound shrimp
1 pound Calamari rings
1 bag frozen peas
Lemon segments for serving
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Start my heating your pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and the onions and the salt. Sweat the onions till they get soft and sweet, take your time with this step as it really aids in the overall flavors of the dish, about 15 minutes. Once the onions are soft and sweet, add the garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the paprika and toast it for 2 minutes This will smell amazing!! Add half the parsley, the saffron, and the tomato paste. Stir well and cook the tomato paste for 2 minutes before adding the rice. When the rice has been added, stir it around well to make sure each grain has been coated in the onion mixture. Add the broth or water, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, once boiling, don't stir. Let the rice boil for 5 minutes, after which you will add the peas, and top the rice with the shrimp, sausage, and calamari. Pop the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until all the broth has been absorbed. You can leave it in longer if you want to create more of a crispy layer on the bottom, just be careful not to burn it. The Spanish chef I worked for taught me to listen to the rice “talk” to know when it was just crispy enough.
Top with the remaining parsley and serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the rice and some salsa verde (recipe for that tomorrow), enjoy with some crisp white wine.