I’m always surprised by the random cravings I get. For example, paella. I can probably count the number of times I’ve had paella on one hand. I can’t remember a particularly remarkable paella that I can point to in my memory as a definitive paella experience. Yes, I remember having paella in Barcelona but I also kind of remember thinking it was weird (oh the trips before I was super into food…). BUT for some reason I’ve been nursing a paella craving for MONTHS. Honestly, months.
Maybe it’s something about the combo of a one pot rice dish + the addition of a ton of seafood that I find calling my name. Not sure. But for whatever reason I set out in search of a paella recipe.
Easier said than done. Sure there are a TON of paella recipes out there but they are all SO DIFFERENT. Some have all seafood, some have only vegetables, some have whole pieces of chicken, some have a combination of all three. The list literally goes on and on. And since I don’t necessarily have a great starting point for paella I wasn’t really sure how to go about judging the awesomeness of said recipes. So I decided to make my criteria that it must be seafood-based and ideally no chicken. This recipe from Food52 seemed to fit the bill.
One of my never ending struggles in Chicago is finding proper ingredients. Yes, Chicago is a restaurant capital but it is also really spread out and not nearly as diverse as Toronto, which makes finding certain ingredients a bit of a wild goose chase. For example, I couldn’t find paella rice. I didn’t think I’d have trouble finding this at all but trips to big supermarkets, Whole Foods, AND World Market left me empty-handed, so I used Arborio rice (the kind that you would use for risotto). Also couldn’t find wood roasted paquillo peppers. I substituted Peppadew peppers on a whim having no idea if they were even remotely similar to paquillo peppers. True story. Also, the world didn’t explode. Phew.
I would also like to point out that this was my first time selecting, buying and cooking clams. I’m always surprised by the things I haven’t cooked before. And of course it didn’t occur to me to learn about clams before heading to the market so just picture me in the market, iphone in hand googling “how to select clams”.
From start to finish this took about an hour, which isn’t so bad. After reading through the recipe I realized that I didn’t have to prep all of the ingredients before hand and kind of just did it as I went along which definitely reduced the amount of time required.
The results were pretty delish. I can’t quite explain it but it didn’t match the flavour profile I was expecting, but it was still good, although a bit spicier than anticipated. And it was a pretty handsome dish, who can be mad at that?
1 ripe tomato
1/2 cup white wine
1 red onion, chopped
12 black mussels, beards removed & scrubbed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 red onion, extra, finely chopped
2 pieces Italian sausage, cook ahead & sliced
2 wood roasted paquillo peppers, chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sivaris bomba paella rice
1/2 teaspoon Spansih saffron threads
2 cups organic chicken stock, heated
1/2 cup frozen peas
12 extra large shrimp, unpealed Note: I kept the shrimp unpealed for more flavor.
12 little neck clams
1 handful parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon Spanish pimenton smoked paprika
Heat the wine and onion in a saucepan over high heat until it begins to bubble. Add the mussel and cover and cook for five minutes.
Remove from the heat, trash any unopened mussels, and drain, reserving the liquid to use later in the recipe.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan (great if you have a paella pan. i just used a cast iron skillet), add the extra onion, Italian Sausage cook for five minutes, or until onions have softened.
Add the chopped tomatoes, paquillo peppers, smoky paprika & cayenne pepper. Season with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
Stir in the reserved liquid from the mussels, then add the rice and stir again. Blend the saffron with the stock and stir into the rice mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes without stirring.
Put the peas, shrimp, clams on top of the rice. Push them into the rice, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, turning over halfway through, until the rice is cooked. Add the mussels & lemon juice for the last 5 minutes to heat through. If the rice is not cooked, add extra stock and cook for a few more minutes.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes, then add the parsley.
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