- Meat chunks see * Note
- 1/4 pound medium shrimp in shells heads off
- 1/2 pound calamari cleaned, skinned, cut into circles, heads whole
- 12 mussels - (to 18)
- 2 cups raw white rice
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 Roma plum tomatoes - (to 4) minced
- Saffron (or 1 packet of Sazon Goya con Azafran)
- Olive oil as needed
- 1 large red bell pepper cut wide strips
- 1 green pepper diced
- Minced garlic as much as you like
- (I use at least 2 large cloves/person)
- 1 full head of garlic
- Chopped parsley (fresh is best)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 pound fresh green beans diced, or canned peas, carrots, or chick peas
- (depending on your taste)
* Note: About 2 inches square; 1 or 2 of each per serving: 8 to 10 pieces of chicken breast and/or thigh, 6 to 8 pieces of rabbit, or 6 to 8 pieces of pork, meatballs, etc. (all optional, depending on appetites).
In saucepan, brown meats in olive oil; remove meat. In drippings, add onion, green pepper, tomato, minced garlic, bay leaf, and parsley and sauté until the onion is soft. Add saffron, browned meats, and 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the juice from the saucepan and save it.
Steam mussels until they open. Save the juice; set mussels aside. When they are cool, separate the shells, leaving the mussels on their half shells.
Transfer saucepan contents to paella pan, distributing evenly. Place full head of garlic at center of the pan. Divide into pie wedges with the thick strips of red pepper standing on edge so that when it is done, you will see the tops of the pepper strips. Distribute rings and heads of calamari. Sprinkle beans or chick peas evenly around. Then sprinkle rice evenly around meats. Add 8 cups of liquid, including saucepan sauté juices and mussel juice.
Cook, uncovered, evenly over low flame. This can be done in the oven, but is much better over an open flame where you can tend it. I prefer to do it over an adjustable grille, starting relatively close to the hot coals to get it steeping and simmering, but then raising the grille from the coals to slow the cooking and let the flavors mingle. Important: rotate the pan over the flame to make sure it cooks evenly, and keep flame from scorching the rice at the bottom of the paella pan. This pot takes considerable watchful attention.
When the rice has risen to the top and much (but not all) of the water has cooked off, fan shrimp over the top, then stand the mussels in half shells in the rice, points down. I do it in an attractive pattern of circled mussels and fanned shrimp.
As it cooks, gauge doneness by tasting rice from several parts of the pan to be sure it is the correct texture (cooked -- not crunchy, not mushy) and consistent throughout. If more water is needed in certain parts of the pan, add boiling water sparingly, sprinkling from a large spoon. If too much water is in the rice, lay newspaper lightly over the top of it and it will absorb excess water.
Best served right out of the pan. In Spain, eating with the men out in the fields, the mussel shells served as spoons.
Serve with crusty bread and a tossed salad. I recommend violating the seafood-white wine rule; this meal goes best with a hardy red of your choice.
This recipe yields 6 servings.
The first thing you need is a proper paella pan. You will find paella pans of many sizes and shapes. The best will be the most shallow and broad you can find, with its rim slanted outward. No lid needed. I have a paella pan that serves 8 persons; it is about 13 inches across at the top, 11 inches across the bottom, and the sides are only about an inch and a half high. It feeds eight persons comfortably. (I also have one that serves 16!)
The best way to clean and treat the pan: rub its insides vigorously with a wedge of lemon after each use (and before first use), rinse, dry, and wipe its insides with olive oil on a paper towel. It should remain rust free and ready for use.