Each month on the Make it Happen Blog Hop, we challenge ourselves to take one something new and out of our comfort zone. This month, it's all about Cooking, and I undertook cooking a traditional Spanish seafood paella over a wood fire. Here's the recipe and my experience.
I love paella, but for all the amazing restaurants we have here in the Phoenix area, there's no fabulous Spanish one.
So several years ago, I bought a paella pan, intending to learn how to make it myself.
I tried. On an electric stove. And failed. Majorly, massively failed. The pan has been hanging around, unused, since then.
Until now. For the Make it Happen Blog Hop, I knew that I wanted to challenge myself to trying paella again, this time over an open fire in the true traditional method.
I decided that a good place to start was probably the recipe on a website that sells traditional paella pans, but of course, I made a few small changes. Mostly because I forgot something at the grocery store. ;-)
Seafood Paella Recipe:
- shrimp, calamari, and scallops (I used the seafood mix from Trader Joe's)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (approximate)
- 1 tomato
- 6 cloves garlic
- half an onion
- 1 1/2 cups medium grain rice
- pinch saffron
- salt, to taste
- 1 T fish sauce
- 8 mussels, scrubbed clean
Start by making the sofrito. Put the garlic, tomato, and onion together in a skillet and cook until the mixture turns into a dark burgundy color and is nice and thick. Add salt to taste; I used about a teaspoon. If the mixture starts to stick to the pand or burn, La Paella recommends adding a little bit of water to the pan. This is exactly what happened to me, and just a few tablespoons of water made a rather magical difference in the color and texture of the sofrito. Definitely don't be scared of that recommendation.
Thaw and drain the mixed seafood (reserving the liquid). Saute the seafood for a few minutes, until just cooked through, and set aside.
Take the reserved liquid, and add enough liquid to make 4.5 cups total. Add in the fish sauce (which I used because I had it, and didn't have clam juice, but worked beautifully) and saffron, and let simmer for about 2 minutes. Take off heat.
Put sofrito, rice, and saffron broth in the pan, and carefully place over an open fire.
Cook the rice mixture over the open flame, turning occasionally to keep the heat evenly distributed.
Cook for about 10 minutes, until the water level in the pan is about the same height as the rice, then remove from heat and add the mussels, nestling them in the rice. Return the pan to the flame, and cook for about another 10 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
If you've run out of liquid, but the rice isn't quite done yet, you can pour in more broth or water, and continue cooking.
Once the rice is done, take the pan off the fire, and arrange the calamari, scallops, and shrimp on top of the rice.
This cooking challenge ended up being remarkably more successful than my previous attempt! The paella was delicious. I did dance the edge between a nice socarrat (the crispy bit at the bottom of the pan )and a merely burnt bottom, but it still tasted great. ;-) Plus, I now have another thing I can make in the wood-fired pizza oven I built! I definitely call that a win.
Be sure to check out the other food challenges taken up by my blogger friends in the Make it Happen Blog Hop, too, and challenge yourself to something new this month!