Today’s guest post is once again from our resident grillaholic, Stephen.
This dish has been my white whale. I have long been intrigued by the alchemy of rice, fish, meat and smoke that makes up Spanish paella. I love dishes with layers of flavor and this one packs them in there. There are many, many varieties of paella, ranging from all meat, all seafood, all veggies, and even one with rabbit and snails which hails from the Valencian area of Spain. Much like BBQ in the Southern US, it seems that that what goes in your paella depends on what area of Spain you are eating in. As I am still getting my paella cooking legs, I started out with a fairly typical Mixed Seafood Paella. While I’ve made a version of this in a large skillet on the oven, I finally broke down and invested in a paella pan which makes a world of difference. Also, if you can, I would search out Bomba or Calasparra rice from Spain. (you can order online here.) I used Arborio rice here because that’s what I had on hand. It was perfectly delicious, but it stuck together more than Bomba rice would have. Finally, this is one of those dishes where cooking on the grill is not only traditional, but key to the flavor. I’m not saying you have to set up a pit in a rice field cooking over a fire of orange and pine branches. But cooking on a charcoal Weber with some of your favorite soaked wood chips for good measure will go a long way in elevating your paella to another level.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped,
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tomato, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons concentrated tomato paste
- 1½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp merquén (optional, see note*)
- 4 ½ cups seafood stock (fresh if you can find it/make it; I used Kitchen Basics brand in the blue carton)
- ½- 1 tsp saffron (crushed)
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 8 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into ¼-inch slices
- 1 pound littleneck clams
- ½- 1 pound shrimp (peeled and deveined)
- Lemon wedges, fresh parsley, and red pepper flakes for garnish
- Light a charcoal grill creating an even layer of medium hot coals. Add soaked wood chips to add additional smokiness.
- While the fire is starting, combine the seafood stock, saffron, merquén (if using) and 2 bay leaves into a large sauce pan and bring to a high simmer.
- When the fire is ready, place a paella pan directly on the grill, and add the olive oil.
- Cook the chorizo over medium heat until some of the fat has rendered. Stir frequently to brown, not burn, the chorizo. Remove the chorizo from the pan and add the red and green peppers, garlic, and the onions. Sauté for a few minutes until tender. Then add the tomato paste, smoked paprika, and the rice. Sauté for about 1 minute. Add about 3 ½ cups of the hot stock and all the chorizo to the skillet. Do not stir after this point.
- Place the lid on the grill. After 10 minutes, add the chopped tomatoes and clams to the pan, crack side up. Replace lid. Then, after 5 more minutes, push the shrimp into the rice and cook for about 5 minutes. Replace lid. If at any point the rice seems to be drying out too quickly, add more broth. The idea is to cook the rice with the minimal amount of liquid. This way, the rice separates nicely and develops a browned crust on the bottom. This is called the socarrat and is the sign of quality paella in Spain.
- Discard any clams that ultimately never open up. Serve with lemon wedges and fresh parsley.
*Merquén is a smoked pepper from Chile, similar to the Aleppo Pepper or Turkish Urfa Biber pepper. I happened to have some on hand from a friend’s recent trip to Santiago. Not required, but it just added another level of smokiness.