Seafood paella uses high-quality fish
The fresh fish I brought back from Maui, Hawaii, last Friday inspired me to create this dish. After my previous visit to Oahu in November, I stopped serving Ahi tuna in my restaurant because I realized that I could not find the quality of fish that is available all over the Hawaiian Islands. What I tasted there entirely subdued my palate and enticed me to commit to using the highest, freshest quality of fish from then on.
Seafood paella is very popular in Spain during the summer months. There are many versions of seafood paella: some use mussels, clams, squid, black squid, scallops, shrimp, fresh tuna, lobster, crabmeat, cod, monkfish, fresh salmon, grouper — any available fish, really.
Coastal residents substituted beans and seafood for other meats, thereby inventing seafood paella. Later, Spaniards mixed seafood into the original Valencia recipe, and mixed paella was born.
Paella is a rice dish originating from the eastern coast of Spain's Valencia region. Valencians use the world paella for a specific pan: traditionally round and shallow, made of finished steel with two handles.
The success of seafood paella depends on the quality of the broth. You may use thyme, rosemary, parsley and saffron to enhance the flavor. I recommend paprika, particularly the Spanish smoked variety.
The Moors, who arrived in Spain from North Africa, created elaborate irrigation systems and introduced rice as well as saffron to the area. They often made casseroles of rice, fish and spices for family gatherings and religious ceremonies. By the time the Moors were driven out of Andalusia in the 15th century, rice had become a staple dish for Spain.
The rice used for paella is a short grain called calasparra or bomba. Other key ingredients are saffron and olive oil.
There are four distinct paella styles: Valencia's traditional paella, seafood paella, mixed paella and vegetable paella. At Café Collage, we will be serving seafood paella this weekend.
Serves six to eight
1⁄4 cup olive oil
2 red bell peppers, sliced lengthwise
6 to 8 ounces chorizo sausage or Andouille sausage, thinly sliced
1-1⁄2 cups Spanish rice (calasparra or bomba; if not available, use arborio rice)
1-1⁄2 cups lamb broth, see cook's notes, or any other broth may be used
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon curry, divided use
1 cup cooked navy or lima beans (recipe follows)
6 ounces butter
10 fresh prawns (16-21 size)
1 pound Alaskan cod, cubed
1 pound Ahi tuna, cubed
1 pound swordfish, cubed
1⁄2 cup lamb broth, see cook's notes, or any other broth may be used
6 ounces French green beans, trimmed and blanched lightly
2 Meyer lemons, cut into wedges
1⁄4 cup finely chopped parsley
Cook's notes: To make lamb broth, simmer one leg of lamb bone for four hours in 8 cups of water seasoned with salt and ground pepper.
In a four- to six-serving size paella pan, lightly heat the olive oil. Add the bell peppers and cook for five minutes over low heat. Add the sausage and the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for five minutes. Gradually add about 1 cup of broth as the rice is cooking, until moistened, stirring frequently. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and half of the curry. Add the cooked beans.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter. Over low heat, very lightly sauté the prawns, cod, tuna and swordfish for three to five minutes. It is important to have the seafood cooked only halfway. Add 1⁄2 cup broth, salt, pepper and the rest of the curry. Set aside.
Using a wooden spoon, mix the rice in the paella pan very gently while gradually adding more broth until the grains are fluffy but firm. If needed, use some of the broth from the fish pan to keep the rice moist. If additional liquid is needed, use water.
Spread the French beans and half-cooked seafood in a symmetrical pattern over the rice and cook for another five minutes over low heat. To make the paella authentic, it must have a socarrat, which is a thin layer of brown and crusty rice at the bottom of the pan. In Spain, the socarrat is considered a delicacy.
Turn the heat off and cover the paella with a cloth. Let it settle for 10 to 15 minutes before serving family style. Distribute the lemon wedges around the paella pan and sprinkle with parsley before serving.
I particularly enjoy a squeeze of lemon on my paella as well.
NAVY OR LIMA BEANS
4 cups water
1-1⁄2 cups navy or lima beans (soaked in hot water for one hour, or until the beans are fluffy)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup fresh dill
Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the beans and cook, covered, for an hour. Remove from the heat and let the beans soak, covered, in the water for an hour. Add the olive oil, onion, tomato sauce, dill, salt and pepper. Over medium to low heat, cook the beans for another hour, adding more water, if needed. The beans should be soft but not falling apart.