Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Before I get into the specifics of making the paella, I also wanted to show a simple asparagus salad I served while the rice simmered. This is called asparagus on asparagus, and it’s another playful and easy dish from Happy in the Kitchen. You start with a bunch of peeled asparagus and set four spears aside and then cook the rest until tender. Those were left whole and chilled. The four reserved spears were chopped and added to a saucepan with a little water and olive oil. They were simmered until very tender and then pureed with dijon mustard, lemon juice, and salt. What results is a thick asparagus sauce which was served in cups for dunking the whole, chilled spears.
So, back to the seafood paella. I prepared a shrimp stock and cleaned and cut the seafood in advance. The stock was warmed with some saffron while the paella prep began. Olive oil was heated in a large saute pan because I don’t yet own a proper paella pan, but now I really want one. The recipe suggested using monkfish, but that’s not a sustainable choice and is on the avoid list right now. I used true cod instead. Cod, cut into one-inch pieces, was added to the olive oil and seared for about a minute. It was removed from the pan, and squid tubes cut into rings were added. The squid was seared and then pushed to the outside of the pan. More olive oil was added to the pan, and minced garlic was cooked until fragrant. Tomatoes that had been grated on a box grater were added followed by some paprika. Then, the rice was added. In the book, there’s a thorough explanation of types of rices to consider for paella. The most reliable and easiest to locate is Italian Arborio rice, and that’s what I used. The rice was stirred in the pan until well coated, and then the warmed shrimp and saffron stock was added. From that point on, the rice was no longer stirred. The pan was shaken to distribute the stock throughout the rice, but otherwise, the rice was left to cook undisturbed. Chopped parsley was added, and after about five minutes, the cod was returned to the pan along with some littleneck clams. Once the stock had absorbed down almost to the surface of the rice, the pan went into a 425 degree F oven for 15 minutes. The pan was then removed from the oven, covered, and left to sit for five minutes. The lid was removed, and it was left to sit for another five minutes. The sitting improves the rice. While it sat, shrimp were sauteed in a separate pan with some minced garlic.
The paella was served in the pan with the sauteed shrimp on top with no garnishes other than some lemon wedges. I wasn’t sure I had seasoned the rice carefully enough during the cooking time, but the seafood, and particularly the clams, added such a nice taste of the sea that it worked out fine. Just as everyone was taking their last bites, I realized I had completely forgotten the saffron allioli which was to have been served with the paella. Our guests, and this is truly a sign of the best kind of dinner guests, said ‘go get it, let’s have a taste!’ So we all piled one more scoop of paella onto our plates and topped it with the allioli. The garlicky, saffron-scented, thick sauce added a lovely something extra, but the plain paella wasn’t bad at all on its own. Up next, I’ll show dessert.