We’re thinking “seafood paella” must be one of the original Spanish phrases for comfort food. Actually, paella is the name of the wide, shallow pan used for cooking this (and other) dishes. However, the fresh seafood on a flavorful rice bed—cooked with veggies and garlic in the tasty broth and wine sauce—are the perfect pick-me-up after a long day. Our recipe calls for shrimp, clams and mussels, but because there are so many variations on traditional ingredients, you can add any meat you like to this dish and still call it paella. What’s your favorite paella?
Peel and chop the onion.
Peel and mince the garlic.
Thinly slice the scallions.
Dice the bell pepper.
Chop the tomatoes.
Set all aside for later.
Select only the live shellfish: test the mussels by tapping their shells gently on the counter top or by opening and closing them with your fingers a few times. If the mussels close their shells completely, they are alive and edible. Any that remain open should be discarded and not eaten. Also look the clams over and discard any that are open or broken.
Debeard the mussels as needed: using your fingers, covered with a dry towel, pull quickly and sharply on any tough, thin fibers that may be sticking out of the shell (be sure to tug toward the narrow hinge end of the shell) until the beard releases, and then discard the fibers.
Soak the shellfish: fill a large bowl with cold water and submerge the mussels and clams for 20 minutes, allowing them to purge any excess salt or sand. Scoop the shellfish out of the water, careful not to include any sand that may be at the bottom of the bowl. Scrub the shells with firm brush under cool running water and then set aside.
Rinse the shrimp in cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 10 minutes.
In a large saucepan, heat fish stock (or broth) over medium-low. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the saffron (or crumble them with your fingers), and then add to the broth.
Add the annatto seeds to a mortar and pestle. Grind into a fine powder and set aside.
In a paella pan or large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Sauté onion just until they begin to soften, but aren’t yet transparent (about 3 – 4 minutes). Add garlic and continue sautéing until aromatic (about 1 minute more).
Add the bell peppers and sauté until peppers begin to soften, (about 5 – 7 minutes). Stir in scallions and tomatoes. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes.
Then add the following:
Bring to a boil and stir occasionally, continuing to boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the parsley. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been soaked up. You’ll need a little bit of liquid to continue cooking the rice, so add a small amount of water if the liquid is gone.
Nestle the clams and mussels, face up, in the top layer of rice. Arrange your shrimp in between the shellfish. Cook over low heat until the rice is al dente (about 15 – 20 minutes). Sprinkle lemon juice and Aleppo pepper over the top and then remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
Serve seafood paella hot. Optionally, garnish with fresh lemon wedges.