Spanish Seafood Paella with a Side of History
Spain has given us a lot… Don Quixote, Picasso, the Flamenco come to mind. However, if you are unfamiliar with the paella, you are missing out on one of the most iconic Spanish contributions to the world, not to mention one of the tastiest dishes you are ever likely to eat should you be so lucky.
Well, today, you’re in luck because I will share with you an easy to make and delicious seafood paella recipe. But first, let’s take a brief look at the origin of one of the oldest and best known Spanish culinary traditions before moving on to the really good stuff.
The paella (pronounced “pa-e-ya“), or paella valenciana has long been popular throughout culinary circles worldwide. This delicious and satisfying dish originated in the southeastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula (consisting of Portugal and Spain) . to be exact, it was in the historic Mediterranean port city of Valencia that this iconic Spanish dish got its humble beginning.
The paella, along with many other culinary as well as cultural traditions on the Iberian Peninsula, has a distinct Arabic influence. You see, “arroz” or rice, the core ingredient in the Paella, was introduced to the peninsula by the Moorish occupation of Southern Portugal and most of Spain that started in early 8th century and lasted approximately 500 years. In fact, the Spanish word arroz is derived from the Arabic word for rice, ar-ruzz.
Paella purists will tell you the traditional Spanish paella recipe was a simple dish cooked over a wood fire using ingredients that were locally and readily available to the people of the region. That meant snails, rabbits, and chicken in addition to rice, tomatoes, beans and similar local produce flavored with saffron and other spices.
However, with time, and as the dish’s popularity spread, the paella evolved into many variations. That Valencia is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it probably didn’t take long for the paella marinara, or the seafood paella adaptation of the dish to evolve.
So, I’m going show you a simple yet delicious variation of the seafood paella that I never seem to tire of, no matter how many times I have it. While it may not satisfy the expectations of the paella purist, I am quite sure it will satisfy your palate. Let’s get started.
Ingredients for Seafood Paella
(Serves 4-5 people)
- Shrimp (large) – 8-10 ounces, peeled and deveined
- Mussels – 1lb (20-25 count), scrubbed clean
- Spanish chorizo sausage (can substitute Portuguese linguica or chourico ) – 2 cups, casings removed
- Extra virgin olive oil – 1/4 cup
- Paprika – 1/2 tablespoon
- Oregano (dried) – 1 teaspoon
- Sea salt – 2 teaspoons
- Black pepper – 1 tablespoon (freshly grounded for better taste)
- Garlic – 4 cloves, minced
- Red pepper flakes (crushed) – 1 teaspoon
- Short/medium-grain rice (Valencia/Bomba, Arborio, Calrose ) – 2 cups
- Saffron threads – 1 pinch (roughly 20 med. size threads)
- Bay leaves – 2, whole
- Parsley – 1/4 cup, chopped
- Spanish or yellow onion – 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- Bell pepper – 1, chopped
- Tomatoes – 2 large, cut into wedges
- Green Olives – 1/2 cup, pitted & halved
- Chicken stock – 4 cups
- White wine – 8 ounces, dry
Cooking Your Paella Stovetop
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil In a large skillet or a 14-16 inch paella pan over medium heat, stovetop; add chorizo and stir for about 3 minutes until lightly cooked.
Stir in salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic, onion, crushed red pepper, bell pepper, tomatoes, chorizo (or chourico/linguica) and rice. Cook while stirring for 5 minutes to thoroughly mix rice with other ingredients.
Next, stir in the saffron threads, bay leaves, parsley, chicken stock and white wine. Bringing it to a boil, cover and reduce to medium-low heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes.
Now add shrimp, mussels and Spanish/green olives in your pan, spreading them evenly. Cover and cook for additional 5 minutes until shrimp turn pink and mussels open up. You’re almost done.
Spread your paella evenly onto a serving tray, let stand for approximately 5 – 10 minutes and you’re ready to enjoy.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 37 minutes