Here’s the recipe, finally, for paella. But first, let me talk about the annual paella contest that takes place in Aixerrota (Getxo), which is near Bilbao. Every year around the 25th of July thousands of people gather in groups to make their own paella. There’s a contest, too – but we don’t participate, mostly because if you enter your paella into the contest, by the time you get it back from the judges, you have to eat it cold! Or make two of them so this doesn’t happen! So we just gather with friends, make our paella (and eat it, too!) and drink some sangria.
Since it’s outdoors in a field, someone asked what happens when it rains… well, the fact is, out of all the times we’ve attended, the weather has always been nice. Always. Except this year. And even this year, it was mostly clouded and it rained a little, but we were protected by our little “stand” (which can be seen here). Plus, this was the first year we used gas to cook it, so all was good. Sidenote: we’ve had horrible weather so far this summer… yesterday the news said we’ve had 20 rainy days so far in July, and that it’s a new record, ugh!
PaellaA few notes
There are a lot of paella recipes out there, but this one is adapted so it can be prepared easily. It doesn’t have onions (actually, the one in the photograph does have onions, but it’s still delicious without it). I also like to serve it so everyone can eat it with a fork: the prawns are peeled and the chicken is boneless, so there’s more rice (it’s the best part!) and it’s easier to eat. This recipe is perfect for the annual Paella day in Aixerrota, since we usually cook it over fire on a hole in the ground (no, I’m not kidding. This was the first year we used gas, and it was mainly because it was raining a bit) and we can cut all the ingredients (like the peppers) and prepare the stocks the day before.
If you can’t prepare stock because you’re short of time, you can just buy high quality chicken and fish stocks and use those (I use half and half of each).
It’s important to use saffron and not food coloring. But be careful and don’t overuse the saffron, not only because of the price but because of the scent, it’s very powerful.
The type of rice you use is very important. In spain we use a rounded type of rice (SOS), or if you want something more gourmet (but also a lot more expensive) you can use Calasparra rice, available in Williams-Sonoma. If you can’t find this you can use a risotto-type of rice, like Arborio.
Season each ingredient with salt as it cooks.
I don’t have a thorough ingredient list with quantities (this is part of the beauty of the recipe, you can change quantities as you wish), but you’ll need:
- Chicken and fish stocks if you’re not preparing your own, onions and leeks if you are
- Red peppers
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon wedges
- Prepare chicken stock with chicken bones and some vegetables like onions and leeks.
- Peel the prawns and use the skins and the heads to prepare another stock. Bring the water to a boil, and let it simmer for another 10 minutes or so.
- Clean the mussels and steam them until they open. Remove each one from the heat when they open, this is important so they don’t become rubbery. Save the mussels and clean them once more if you see it’s necessary.
- Cover the paella (the pan used to cook the paella is also called paella) with extra virgin olive oil and cook the peeled garlic until golden. Remove from the pan.
- Cut the red pepper in thin strips and cook on the pan using the same oil. Remove from the pan.
- Sear the calamari pieces, but don’t cook them through. Remove from the pan.
- Same with the chicken.
- Grate 3 or 4 tomatoes and cook in the same oil.
- Place all the previously cooked ingredients (red pepper, calamari, and chicken) in the pan and add more oil if necessary. Add the rice and the stocks (chicken, prawns and mussels), extend it across the pan with a wooden spoon and the don’t touch it anymore until it’s cooked, about 16 minutes.
- Toast the saffron a bit, inside aluminium foil and close to a source of heat. Dilute it with a bit of hot stock and pour it onto the paella.
- About five minutes before the rice is ready, add the prawns and the mussels.
- Let the rice rest, covered, for about 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges (optional).