You ever wonder why people don’t make paella at home often? Yeah, me too. It’s the sort of dish that is (1) really easy, (2) totally conducive to a big group, especially one that watches on while you cook and (3) it’s healthy. Oh, and paella is totally amenable to a slightly buzzed cook who may have indulged in a couple glasses of fruit puree and tequila. I’m just saying, if that happens to be the case, then this dish is for you.
Let me walk you through my no-fuss step-by-step process, which you should feel free to adjust as needed. While my photos may in fact leave a bit to be desired on the professional front, I decided to post them anyway. This recipe isn’t about perfection; it’s about a do-it-yourself, quick and dirty recipe that let’s you enjoy time with friends as you prepare a delicious fancy meal in one big pan.
Note: I invested in a paella pan years ago. If you don’t have one, use your widest, deepest skillet and adjust the measurements below to make sure it all fits.
Make-Your-Own Spanish Paella
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large Spanish onion, diced (ask a friend to do the dicing!)
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (ask the same friend!)
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped (you chop the parsley)
- 1 large can (15-16 oz) of whole peeled tomatoes (ask another friend to open the can!)
- 4 cups short-grain Spanish rice or arborio (risotto) rice
- 6 cups water
- Saffron threads, a big pinch
- 1 dozen clams
- 1 lb. scallops
- 1 lb. jumbo raw shrimp, peeled, cleaned and de-veined
- 1/2 lb. any white fish, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Lemon wedges
Set your pan over a burner that’s set to medium heat and coat it with olive oil. Toss in the onion, garlic and parsley and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and crush with a fork while they simmer and meld with the vegetables. (You may also opt to hand-crush the tomatoes prior to tossing into the pan, but who wants messy fingers when there’s wine to drink?)
After another 5 minutes, add the rice and stir to coat it with red, glossy goodness. Add the water and large pinch of saffron. (If you’re the sort who wants chorizo in your paella, add it here. In many regions of Spain, they just focus on the seafood, as I chose to do here.)
Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes and stir occasionally to ensure all the rice is sucking up the dreamy liquid. Don’t worry about your rice burning. If your heat is set right, at medium, there will be no burning. A friend-chef once told me that the myth that you have to continually stir risotto is false. Set the heat right, and you can virtually ignore the pan!
Tuck the clams, scallops, shrimp and white fish into choice spots within the rice dish. This is a fun little exercise! Once you do this, stop stirring. Just shake the dish to let everything settle into a nice spot in the pan and let the dish cook for a good 10-15 minutes until the rice is al dente.
Once the dish is cooked, add enough salt to taste. Then, there’s one last trick that I discovered from the many recipes I read to assemble this one. Once you feel the rice is cooked, turn the heat from medium to high for about 30-45 seconds until the bottom layer burns just slightly. That crusty goodness adds a great texture to the dish. Of course, you can opt to skip that step entirely. Either way, it’s lovely scooped onto a plate with a little squeeze of lemon and full glass of bright white wine.