Chiringuito seafood paella

Adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen

The first time I tasted seafood paella was on the beach in Valencia, Spain when I was sixteen, spending the summer traveling around Europe with my best friend, Julie.  We ordered it at a chiringuito – a seafood shack on the beach – where came garnished with lots of mussels, clams, shrimp and I can't remember what else! Anyway, it was a splendid sight for two hungry young travelers, and absolutely dreamy – with crusty rice redolent of saffron and seafood smoky from the wood fire. Many years later, I fell in love with the version Anya von Bremzen offered in her 2005 book The New Spanish Table, though I've tweaked it repeatedly over the last ten years. This version is based on Anya's recipe, though with some minor differences, such as less garlic than Anya uses (which could get me banned from Spain!). While Anya's recipe calls for shelled shrimp sautéed at the last minute in olive oil with garlic, mine calls for pressing shrimp still in their shells into the paella before the cooking is finished. 

If you can manage to make a stock from shrimp shells (save them in a plastic bag in the freezer when you peel shrimp), it is even better. But bottled clam juice, or a combination of clam juice and canned clam broth – all diluted with some water – works well, too, and that's usually what I use. You can also vary the seafood you use, substituting mussels for clams, or using both, for instance. For the rice, Vialone Nano is best, with easier-to-find Arborio a close second. Yes, they're both Italian rices: We're cooking without borders! You'll also need a 15-16 inch paella pan.

Here's something cool: You can finish the dish either in the oven or outdoors, on a grill. (Whether you use an electric grill or a charcoal-fired kettle grill, grill with the lid on.)

If you're making the recipe for a dinner party, you can prepare it up to the point just before you transfer the paella to the oven or grill; just remove it from the heat and leave it on top of the stove up to a half hour, until you're ready to proceed. That leaves you with 15 minutes baking time after you press the seafood into the rice and 10 minutes for it to rest.

Serves four to six.

Ingredients

5 cups shellfish broth -- made from diluting 3 1/2 cups bottled clam juice with 1 1/2 cups water, or use a combination of clam juice and clam broth diluted with some water to taste

1/4 teaspoon saffron

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 pound monkfish, true cod or other firm-fleshed fish, cut into 1-inch chunks, or use scallops, cut in half or quarters if large

Sea salt

6 to 8 ounces cleaned squid, bodies and tentacles cut into 1-inch pieces, or 8 ounces baby octopus

6 medium garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press

2 large (or 4 small or 3 medium) ripe tomatoes, cut in half and grated on the medium holes of a box grater, skins discarded

1 1/2 teaspoons sweet or smoked paprika

1 3/4 cups short- to medium-grain rice such as Arborio or (even better) Vialone Nano

1/2 cup minced Italian parsley

12-18 small clams, such as Manila or littlenecks, scrubbed

12 jumbo shrimps in their shells

2 lemons, cut into wedges

Allioli to serve it wish, if desired (recipe below)

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit or light an outdoor grill. Place the shellfish broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Crumble the saffron between your fingers and drop it into the broth. Keep it at a slow simmer until you're ready to use it.

2. Place 3 tablespoons of the oil in a 15- or 16-inch paella pan set over a burner and heat on medium heat until it starts to smoke. Add the monkfish or cod and cook until barely seared, 1 to 2 minutes, seasoning it lightly with salt. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fish to a bowl and set aside. Add the squid or baby octopus to the pan, stirring, until just seared, about 2 minutes, seasoning it with salt.

3. Push the squid or octopus to the edges of the paella pan, where it's not as hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the center of the pan. Add the 6 cloves of crushed garlic and cook until fragrant, less than 15 seconds. Add the tomatoes to the center of the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring the tomatoes several times, until they are thickened and reduced, 5 to 7 minutes. Season lightly again with salt. Using two wooden spoons, push the squid or octopus toward the center of the pan and mix it up with the tomatoes. Add the paprika and stir for a few seconds.

4. Add the rice to the paella pan and stir it gently to coat with the pan mixture. Pour in 3 1/2 cups of the simmering stock, keeping the remaining stock simmering in case it is needed later. Stir in the parsley and a sprinkling of salt, and shake the pan gently to distribute the rice evenly. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Periodically move and rotate the pan so that the liquid boils evenly. 

5. Press the clams and the fish into the top of the rice and cook until the cooking liquid is almost level with the rice but the rice is still rather soupy, another 2 to 3 minutes. If the liquid is absorbed too fast and the rice still seems too raw, sprinkle on some more stock. Now press the shrimp into the top of the rice. (NOTE: At this point you can turn off the heat and set it aside for up to half an hour, if you like.)

6. Transfer the paella pan to the oven or put it on an outdoor grill (covered) and bake or grill until the clams open and the rice is tender but still a little al dente, about 15 minutes. Check the paella a few times and sprinkle more stock over the rice if it seems too al dente. Remove the paella from the oven and discard any clams that have not opened. (If the shrimp haven't yet turned completely pink, leave it for another minute or two until they do.) Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover the pan and let stand for another 5 minutes (the rice gets better as it stands).

7. To serve, arrange the lemon wedges around the edge of the paella pan and decorate the top with the shrimp. Serve the paella straight from the pan, along with allioli if desired, for stirring into the rice. 


 

Allioli

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup canola or peanut oil

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste if desired

Instructions

Stir together the two oils in a measuring cup with a spout.

IF USING A BLENDER: 

Place the garlic, salt, egg yolks and lemon juice in the blender and pulse until a paste forms. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, thin, steady stream until it is all used. 

IF USING A STICK BLENDER: 

Place the garlic, salt, egg yolks and lemon juice in a deep, small bowl and blend with the stick blender. Add the oil about a tablespoon at a time at first, blending it each time until the oil is incorporated. Once the mixture is thick and an emulsion is established, you can add the oil in a slow, steady stream.

Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and lemon juice to taste.