I thought it would be appropriate to start my blog with homage to my grandmother. My grandmother was born and raised in Puerto Rico and brought so much culture and life to our family. I believe from her cooking (or what my father lovingly refers to as “spic” food) stemmed my passion for food, with an emphasis on simple yet big, vibrant flavors. Last week I decided to take a stab at paella (finally) and delved into my cookbook to find her hand written recipe that my mother had given to me a few years back. Its great reading her recipes because I can literally hear her speaking through them, thick Puerto Rican accent and all. For me personally, her recipes are the most lasting and touching legacies she has left behind, and the way I can most vividly feel her and hear her in my mind. So, while busting out her recipe, I literally changed almost everything about it, because, well, that’s how I tend to cook. So this is my grandmother’s paella, but not really.
I made this for just my fiancée and myself, but it could definitely feed four
2 cups short grain white rice (I actually found paella rice at whole foods that I used)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
2 lobster tails
6 littleneck clams
6 large scallops
1 teaspoon (packed) saffron
1 chopped Spanish onion
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
5 chopped vine ripened tomatoes
Chopped parsley (for garnish)
Salt & pepper
First, I used shellfish that we like. You could use anything, add chicken, whatever. But this way was pretty damn perfect in my opinion. If you made it for more people go ahead and add other things you think your guests (or you) will like. Make sure you rinse your clams really well in cold water, and give a light scrub on the outside to remove any grit. Keep on ice in the fridge.
Start with that sofrito!! Pour a little olive oil in you pan, a paella pan is a huge plus here, but I used my le creuset braiser and it worked beautifully. Sautee your onion, garlic, and bell peppers over medium heat until nice and soft. If you like a little carmalization on your veg, I say go for it, just don’t scorch it. In the meantime you can heat your chicken broth in a separate pan with half of the saffron.
Once your sofrito is nice and soft add the tomatoes and capers. Get everything moving and cook for about 5 minutes over medium low. Oh, and make sure you add some salt and pepper to your veg. Once you like the look and feel of everything, go ahead and add your rice. Make you sure you toast your rice and get it fully covered in all the tomato and sofrito yumminess. Go ahead and deglaze the pan with the white wine and add the remaining saffron (I like to crumble the saffron between my fingers when adding it to the mixture). Bring to a boil and give it a good stir. Now bring it down to medium low and leave it alone until the liquid is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
Once the wine is absorbed, add the chicken broth and bring back to a boil. Give it one more good stir at this point to mix everything together. Taste the broth, if it needs any more salt and pepper, add it now or forever hold your peace. Organize your shellfish in a pretty way (see photo) I did the lobster in the middle and then went around the outside of the pan alternating the scallops with the clams. Put on the lid and bring down to low. Let cook until the rice is done and the clams are open, somewhere around 20 minutes. Your lobster should be a beautiful, bright red. If you want to do things right, you should also bring the heat up at the very end with the lid off to create some crispy rice on the bottom of the pan. That’s my favorite part.
To serve, layer some lemon wedges on top and sprinkle with parsley. It’s kind of perfect. Grandma would have had some serious issues with the deviation of her recipe, but I still think she would have licked her plate clean.