Updated: Sep 4, 2020
In fall, 2008 there was a show on public television called “Spain…On the Road Again”. For anyone who loves food, wine and Spain this was a wonderful fantasy! It featured Mario Batali (I know, I know…) and Mark Bittman road tripping and eating their way around Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow and a Spanish actress named Claudia Bassols. At the same time, they released a companion book called Spain…A Culinary Road Trip, a sort of travelogue/cookbook, with photos, commentary, restaurants and recipes based on their trip. (The program was just one season, and I believe some of the thirteen episodes are still available on YouTube.)
There were a lot of great dishes in the book, but the paella recipe really inspired me! Initially, I followed Mario’s exact formula, preparing it outdoors on a gas barbeque. However, over the years I’ve probably made paella two dozen times, changing and adapting the ingredients and process to be my own.
This really is a “Rock Star” recipe. A large pan of paella simmering on the grill is a thing to behold! Saffron-colored rice studded with gorgeous mussels, clams and shrimp, the mouthwatering aromas drifting off the grill—I might just have to make paella this weekend! Serve it simply with sangria, a cool green salad, and a fruit dessert.
A couple of notes before we begin. First, I prefer seafood paella, so my recipe uses a combination of white fish and shellfish like shrimp, calamari, scallops, clams
and mussels. You can vary these to your taste and availability. When I first started making paella, I kept track of the seafood combinations I used, until I found my favorite, which I’ve noted below.
Second: equipment. You’ll need a paella pan. They come in several sizes. This recipe will serve 10-12 people, so I use an 18” pan, which fits on my grill with the grill lid closed. A traditional pan is made of steel, and after a few uses it’ll rust. No problem. Just wash and dry it well. https://www.surlatable.com/spanish-paella-pan/PRO-524678.htmlwill
A long-handled paella spoon comes in very handy. That pan will be screaming hot and splattery--and will require stirring early on. Get the spoon! https://www.amazon.com/Garcima-Wood-Handled-Flat-Spatula-30-Inch/dp/B004CT7MRY/ref=asc_df_B004CT7MRY/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241969147179&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12768131558440425133&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9031535&hvtargid=pla-396230578769&psc=1
Finally, preparation is the key to this recipe. Before I even heat my pan, I make sure to have all the ingredients ready—onion diced, tomato pureed, oil, spices and liquid measured out, fish and shellfish cleaned and cut, and all of the above hanging out next to the barbeque. Parts of the preparation go fast, so be ready!
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, diced
2/3 cup ripe tomatoes, pureed
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 1/2 tbsp Spanish smoked paprika (be sure to use the sweet variety)
2- 8 oz bottles of clam juice
1- 64 oz box of vegetable stock/broth
3 cups of bomba rice (Paella rice)
About 6 lbs of seafood**
As noted above, first assemble all your ingredients. With the barbeque on medium-high, heat up the paella pan. Add the olive oil and heat until it just smokes. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until it’s translucent and soft. No burned onions! Next, stir in the pureed tomato. Cook the mixture for about 3 minutes, then add the salt, saffron and Spanish paprika. Mix well, then stir in the calamari. Cook until the calamari starts to become opaque, about 5 minutes. Next, stir in the clam juice and vegetable broth. Allow it to boil for 5 minutes. Mix in the rice, combining it well with the other ingredients, spreading it all evenly in the pan. Add the remaining seafood on top in an attractive arrangement, as this will be your final product. From this point on you will not stir the pan again. Cook for 20 to 25 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. When the pan begins to crackle, the paella is done. Take it off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Note: A traditional paella is somewhat dry, and you’ll have this crackling, almost burned, rice on the bottom, a delicacy called “soccarat”. If you prefer your paella slightly moister, just take the pan off the heat a bit sooner.
Making a good paella is somewhat intuitive. A lot depends the type of seafood you use, the size of your pan, and how hot your grill gets. The fish may cook faster than expected, you may not be able to fit all the liquid in the pan, or the rice may take a bit longer. Just keep an eye on it and be ready to adjust if necessary.
**Here’s my favorite combination of seafood**
2 lbs of black mussels and/or manila clams
1 ¼ lbs large shrimp (16-20 pieces/pound)
1 lb sea scallops (depending on their size, cut them in halves)
¾ lb calamari tubes and tentacles (slice the tubes into ½”rings)
1 lb halibut (or onaga or other boneless, firm white fish)
You can find Spain…A Culinary Road Trip on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061560936?pf_rd_r=0AKACD76MKDR3XAWFTTC&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee