Much like a Texas summer where the warm air dallies on backyard patios while a grill fire smolders, in Spain, these familiar smells mingle with the sweet scent of saffron blended with simmering seafood as family and friends gather to await the appearance of a paella.
Words by Jessica Devenyns Photos by Ashley Haguewood
This classic dish is a symphonic crescendo of color and taste. It is the blending of worlds: the marine and the terrain. Its ingredients embody the art of balancing flavors so that they cut across your taste buds without shattering the harmony. In fact, the echoing ripples of aftertaste may be the most profound testament to the beauty of the dish.
Paella is traditional Spanish fare that comes in many variations. Some include rabbit, while others are strictly seafood. Which one you prefer is often indicative of where you’ve vacationed in Spain. Paella de Marisco comes from the coastal region of Spain and is a dish that varies as widely as there are fish in the ocean. This recipe is a hybrid between an old family recipe and Texas flavor.
Due to the availability of ingredients in Central Texas, this Spanish recipe has been adapted for a Texas pallet. That means a jolt of cayenne dashes through the sea of saffron in which Gulf shrimp swim. It also means that often your selection of seafood will change with the seasons. However, the ingredients listed are generally available and are the traditional backbone of what makes paella such a beloved dish.
Yields: 5-6 servings
4 squid tubes
2 cuttlefish steaks
16 gulf shrimp
(8 peeled & 8 unpeeled)
1.5 quarts fish broth
1.5 cups washed, long grain rice
4 T. crushed tomato
1/2 t. cayenne
Saffron (generous pinch)
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1 finely chopped onion
3 T. olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a separate pan. Add the chopped onion, and sauté on a medium heat until golden brown. Set it aside for later use.
Chop up squid and cuttlefish into bite-sized chunks. Wash the shrimp and mussels for later use.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wok or large cast iron skillet. When it is warm, but not popping, add the chunks of squid and cuttlefish. Cook for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat until their color just begins to change. (Be very careful not to cook them all the way as this can cause them to overcook by the end and have an unpleasant, chewy texture.) Make a hole in the middle of the seafood and add the crushed tomatoes. Let the tomatoes toast for several minutes. Then mix the squid, cuttlefish, and tomato together.
Lower the heat to a simmer for 4-5 minutes, then add the chopped garlic and the cooked onions previously set aside. Simmer for another 4 minutes. Next, add the washed rice, cayenne, and saffron and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the fish broth, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat up to high and cook for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook 7-8 minutes. Return the heat to medium and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Check and see if the rice is soft. If it is not, add a splash more fish broth or water and cook for another 2-3 minutes. When the rice is soft, artistically arrange the shrimp and mussels on top of the rice. Cover the pan and cook approximately 15 minutes or until the mussels open and the shrimp turn pink.