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Nov 9, 2004 06:47 AM

first-time paella; advice requested

  • k

I am currently living and studying in Italy, and one of my greatest joys are the pescherie (fishmongers). Although Bologna is inland, freshness and overwhelming variety are amazing. However, much of the produce comes with heads, beaks, eyes, digestive tracts still very much attached, which is a little bit intimidating. So every Thursday, I get together with a more knowledgeable friend and we make seafood (usually shellfish) together. Normally, we keep the food as fresh and simple as possible, lots of pasta, etc. but this Thursday we want to try something a bit more challenging, and cook paella. I've never made any kind of paella before, let alone seafood, but I've patched an outline together from various sources. I'd love some suggestions, thoughts, etc.

This is for three people.

- In a saucepan, heat vegetable stock (twice as much as the rice you are going to use). Cover with a lid. Fold a half teaspoon of saffron in some tinfoil, and place on the lid to toast for 15 min. Then crush the saffron with some salt, and leave to steep in 1/2cup of the hot stock.

- Put a little oil in a non-aluminum pan, and saute the shelled prawns and calamari rings briefly. Put to one side.

- Make sure there is one TBS of oil left in the pan. Over med heat, saute two cloves of garlic, sliced, 1 small grated onion, until soft, approx. 5 min.

- Add one medium tomato, grated (no skin). season with salt, saute until water is cooked out of the tomato, and the pulp is a thick, burgundy colour, 5-10 min.

- Add arborio rice, stir 1-2 min until translucent. Spread the rice out evenly over the bottom of the pan.

- Raise heat to med-high, add all but 1/4cup of the simmering stock. Simmer/boil until the rice begins to appear above the liquid, 6-8 min.

- Lower heat to medium-low. The liquid should be absorbed and the rice al dente in 8-10 min. Add some more stock if rice not yet al dente. In the last two minutes, bury the scrubbed clams hinge-down in the rice.

- Cover pan with foil, cook two minutes more (ensuring the top layer of rice gets cooked too).Add the calamari and prawns at this point. Recover.

- Raise the heat to medium-high for 1-2 min, to toast the bottom layer of rice. Crackling noise is good, burning smell is bad!

- Turn off heat, rest for 5-10 min. Serve with lemon quarters on the side.

If I buy my prawns with shells, I will add the shells to the stock in the beginning. I will eyeball the amounts of seafood when I buy it.

Ok, my main queries are:
Am I incorporating the seafood at the right time? I don't want to toughen it. I cooked clams last night, and they were done within three minutes of hitting the pan.

What type of oil should I use? Olive? sunflower?

how much rice for three people, and what sized pan?

Thanks in advance for any help!

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  1. Sounds like you've done your homework; you are wise to be cautious about overcooking; not only clams but calamari rings either need ~2 minutes or over an hour; anything in the middle and you've got rubberbands.

    I generally put some type of pepper (more sweet than hot)in a sofrito but otherwise it sounds typical.

    BTW the first time a college chum and I made paella each of us thought the other knew what they were doing. It wasn't the greatest but it was a lot of fun and no one got hurt. An unplanned highlight came just as we all sat down at the table...the doorbell rang, I opened the door and there was a Domino's delivery guy! I accused our guests of having no faith but it turned out he was just at the wrong house. I doubt very much that will happen to you in Italia, tho.