HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Paella Help

  • 31
  • Share

I've never made paella before, but I'm thinking that would be a big hit for Valentine's Day. Could you give me suggestions for a seafood paella? I was at the fish store today and saw that they are going to have lobster tails at a fairly reasonable price on Saturday. So I'd like to buy one or two and include. Thank you for all help and suggestions...and Happy Valentine's Day.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. I have never made seafood paella. I came across a recipe for paella Valencia from a Spanish restaurant some years ago that is very good but they insist that at least that version never has seafood. I have no idea if that is correct, but I have never altered the recipe.

    From what I can recall off the top of my head, you brown the meats (chicken and sausage) with a generous portion of salt, add chicken stock, saffron, one large grated tomato, and a sprig of fresh rosemary, and then pour in rice in an x across the paella pan, then stir the rice into the liquid, adding vegetables. Then you let it sit and do not stir it again until it is done (about 1/2 an hour if I recall correctly), adding more liquid as needed. You want the rice to cook through, but you also want to develop a crusty, browned bottom (but without burning the rice). It's not the receipe I use, but the LA Times went into some detail about paella here: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

    Since lobster tails are big, I have no idea how you'd add them to the recipe and get them to cook right. You might do better adding shrimp along with the vegetables. A paella pan is imperative, in my opinion, as I have tried other pans and they do not work as well.

    Oh, and serve quartered lemons for guests to add to the paella at the table. It really adds something grand, even to pealla without seafood. And some people serve paella with a garlic mayonaise at table.

    4 Replies
    1. re: tnilsson

      Thank you. Do I really need to get a paella pan or is there something else I can substitute. ( I will get one if you tell me that it is crucial.)

      1. re: DaisyM

        You could do without, but I have had far better results with some cheap paella pan than I have had with a regular frying pan. The problem is mainly that the pan has to be big enough to hold all the ingredients, liquid, etc. without spilling over. And heat transfer is important as if you have too much, you will burn the rice (since you don't stir it after the initial mix in), too little and it won't cook right. You would just have to be more careful if you use some other pan. I found a really good paella pan for $15 or something. I can't recall where. It is basically a steel pan with indentations in the bottom and two red rubber covered handles on the sides. Don't spend a fortune on some ritzy paella pan.

        1. re: DaisyM

          TNilsson's advice is very good, especially the cautionary "Don't touch that paella!" Too many people get nervous and agitate the rice, destroying any possibility of achieving soccarat. If you don't have a paellera, you can make due. I use a roasting pan over two burners that does the job adequately.

        2. re: tnilsson

          It's true, the most traditional recipe for paella valenciana does not have seafood. It's mostly beans and a mix of peasant meats (birds, small game & cured sausage). The seafood versions that are more popular today were developed later as the dish spread in popularity around Spain. I made the traditional version once just to try it and didn't care for the texture as much as the seafood versions.

        3. I agree with TNillson that paella is probably not the best use of lobster tails. I would also caution not to plan something like this for a special occasion if you haven't cooked it before. A proper paella pan, while not an absolute necessity, makes a huge difference. But if you cook a paella for more than one or two people, you will be challenged to cook it on an American stove. You really need a gas ring or burner to the size of the pan. (I know, having made paella in a large pan on a Viking range, trying to use two burners.) In theory, you could adapt a paella recipe and finish it in the oven. I'd suggest that you might want to look at alternative pilaf type dishes that incorporate seafood--especially the classic arroz a la tumbada from Vera Cruz, Mexico.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Father Kitchen

            Thank you. I appreciate you telling me this. I'm going to think about other possibilites.

            1. re: Father Kitchen

              I disagree about the lobster. I use lobster, mussels, clams, & shrimp for a seafood paella. You can use a variety of meats including chicken, and chorizo. It's completely a personal choice. I don't have a paella pan, and use a large deep dish skillet. I do agree that you can finish it in the oven if you'd like.
              On a side note, my husband doesn't like rice so I'll save some of the paella mix (before adding rice) and toss it with pasta. I actually like it almost as much as with rice.

              1. re: jcattles

                There's a variant on paella that uses broken angel hair past (or something like that) in place of the rice. Thin soup 'fideos' from Mexico work well for this. The simpler Mexican version is 'sopa seca de fideos' - dry noodle soup.

                1. re: paulj

                  It's called fideua and it's delicious. I normally use a recipe from Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark.

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    Huh. Funny, I've never heard of fideua. Does this seem like it might be the recipe (google is Amazing!)? http://travelswithmyfork.blogspot.com...

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Penelope Casas has a fideua recipe in the Food and Wines of Spain. There is another version from her Paella! book. http://books.google.com/books?id=xZRx...

                      1. re: BigSal

                        I have F&WofS! I must check it out!

                        ~TDQ

            2. This seafood paella recipe is from Chef Ef, I have made his valenciana and it is fabulous. He does use lobster tails (and I use them in my valenciana).
              http://recipes.epicurean.com/recipe/1...
              Happy Valentine's Day to you!

              1. Paella pans are sized according to the intended number of servings. Ideally the rice layer should only be about a 1/2" thick after cooking. Thus a 12" diameter pan is about right for 1cup of raw rice, serving 4. But for a home cook, using a large pan like that is tricky. While I start this pan on the stove top, once the rice is added and water boiling, I transfer it to the oven with a loose foil lid, for most of the cooking. Traditionally a large diameter shallow pan like this was used over an outdoor fire, using vine trimmings, and using country bounty like mushrooms and rabbits, as opposed to seafood.

                A short grain rice, similar to the arborio used for an Italian risotto is preferred, in part because it absorbs a lot of flavorful liquid (about a 3:1 water to rice ratio). But in contrast to a risotto, paella is not stirred, so the rice does not develop a creaminess.

                Another characteristic of an ideal paella is a crusty layer on the bottom of the pan. Frankly I've only come close to that once.

                Another tricky part is balancing the amount rice with the other ingredients. In the Spanish ideal the meats and vegetables shouldn't overwhelm the rice. But as with pizza, Americans tend to go overboard on the toppings, ignoring the quality of the base (rice/crust). Last time I make paella for a crowd, I realized that I was preparing too much toppings, so I scooped out about half for latter use, before adding the rice and broth.

                I've eaten and cooked paella-like rice dishes all my life, but usually they deviated from this Spanish ideal. For example, long grain rice is more common in Latin American derivatives. And until recently I've cooked the rice in thicker layer, more like 1cup for a 10" diameter pan. Some think that the Louisiana jambalaya is a derivative of the paella.

                It's worth noting that paella isn't the only Spanish rice dish. They do use longer rice sometimes. They also cook rice in deeper pots. These versions often go by the name of 'arrozes', or 'rices'. They can be 'seco' (dry), melloso (moist), or caldoso (soupy).

                Traditional paella pans are carbon steel, relatively inexpensive (considering the size), but require the same sort of care as cast iron and other bare steel pans. Enamel steel isn't much more expensive, and lot easier to care for. Stainless steel is easy to care for, but much more expensive.

                But for a first try, I'm not sure a specialized pan is worth it. It may sound like a fabulous show piece, but without experience and practice it could be a flop, especially if you use the wide shallow pan. It's one of those dishes where technique and judgment are more important than the details of a recipe. It might be wise to use a recipe that has an emphasis on being fool proof rather than being authentic.

                1. I make paella a lot and I agree with the person that said it's not something to make for a special occasion the first time. One thing about paella is that most burners in American homes--or anywhere in the world including Spain--don't accomodate the paella (also a name for the shallow-wide pan used to make the dish. I'm going to attach a link to a decent reference to making paella. I personally make it on the grill or over a wood fire. Here's the link:

                  http://www.yoursdaily.com/food_drinks...

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: hankstramm

                    I believe "The Spanish Table" in Seattle (see their website) sells both the paella pans and propane burners sized for the pans, and no doubt they are available from other sources as well. But that is strictly for outside use, and a cheap round Weber non-gas barbecue might work just as well for occasional use. Paulj's finishing it in the oven is probably the way to go for most people. However, when I got our paella pan some years ago, I made sure it would fit in our oven. I actually cut a piece of paper to size, including the handles, and tested it on the rack. (Handles were unnecessary, as they fit easily into the corners.) But I would think that for most people a shallow rectangular pan that can be started on the stove top over two burners and then transferred to the oven would be a more practical way to go. It would have been for us. I think I would have gotten more even heat distribution. The paella pan is thin and it developed hot spots over the gas burners. I had to keep rotating the pan.
                    By the way, some years ago, I ordered paella in a Seattle-area restaurant that has since closed. What I got was a fish stew with saffron rice in it. It was good, but it wasn't paella.

                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                      Here's an article called 'Absorbing rice' about the soupy style of Spanish rice cooking. It includes a recipe with lobster (bogavante) (Foods from Spain News, Summer 2007)

                      http://www.foodsfromspainnews.com/FFS...
                      the blog by the author also looks interesting
                      http://jeff-koehler.com/
                      Describing his 'La Paella' book:
                      "Paellas, though, aren’t the only traditional Spanish rice dishes. Moister – even soupy – rices slow-simmered to perfection in cazuelas (shallow terracotta casseroles) are here, too, including two of my favorites, a luscious soupy rice of lobster and an earthy one of duck and chanterelles. And for dessert there is a creamy, cinnamon and citrus infused rice pudding."

                      From LaTienda's recipe page, here's a similar lobster in soupy rice
                      http://www.tienda.com/recipes/lobster...
                      LaTienda has a nice, accessible collection of Spanish recipes.

                    2. re: hankstramm

                      I make paella fairly often on my apartment range since an outdoor grill is not an option for me. I have a 14-inch paella pan and place it over two burners. You need to turn the pan regularly to avoid hot spots, but that's now almost second nature to me. I agree with others, though, that it's not something you want to try for the first time for a special meal.

                      That said, I made paella for years in a Dutch oven before I finally got a paella pan. Yes, it's better in the paella pan. But it was damned good in the Dutch oven, too. Here a recipe from Cooks Illustrated via Leite's Culinaria that is prepared in a Dutch oven. It's fairly similar to the one I used to make (I used to add slipper lobster tails).

                      http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...

                      1. re: JoanN

                        A 14 inch paella pan is rather small. This equates to about a 36 cm pan. I use, normally, a 47 cm or 54cm pan, this doesn't work well on any regular stove top.

                        1. re: hankstramm

                          Well, I live in a rather small Manhattan apartment. I find I can serve 8 very (very!) generously with my 14-inch pan. And although I've done buffet-type dinners for more, 8 is the largest number of guests I can seat comfortably, so it works for me. But I take your point. My stove top couldn't possibly handle a 47 or 54 cm pan.

                    3. I make paella many times a year. As others have advised, it is not something to try for the first time at a dinner party since it can be tricky to get the hang of.

                      Also, another poster mentioned the crust on the bottom. It's called socarrat, and is a signature feature of paella, without the socarrat you have rice pilaf. Pilaf can be delicious and taste a lot like paella, but the socarrat imparts a flavor and texture that makes paella unique to other rice dishes. You pretty much need a proper paella pan to get the crust right since it needs to form just as the rice becomes perfectly cooked. The wide, dimpled bottom, and shallowness of the pan is perfectly designed for this.

                      One final thought. Buy the most authentic ingredients you can find. You will be rewarded for cooking with bomba rice and smoked paprika, toss a ñora pepper in there, and buy good quality imported spanish chorizo (not the mexican style that is more common in the US). The Spanish Table is a great resource. They have stores in Santa Fe, Berkeley, Mill Valley, and Seattle. Plus the ship mail order. I buy all my paella stuff there.

                      http://thespanishtable.com/

                      1. Bittman's 'takes on Americas chefs' book (and TV series) has a pair of paella recipes - Jose Andres's traditional, and Bittman's simplified. For Andres not disturbing the film of rice starch that forms on top of the rice as it cooks is as important as protecting the soccarat. I'm don't know whether either of these recipes is available on the web.

                        One version of a Spanish rice dish cooks a layer of beaten egg on top of the rice during the last few minutes, form a crust that seals in juices and aroma.

                        1. Lots of great advice so far. Here is the recipe I always refer to when making paella... I make it a few time a year and have a 16" and 8" pans.
                          http://www.tienda.com/recipes/paellav...
                          I use chicken thighs (instead of the whole chicken called for) and usually sub extra shrimp for the lobster. I also shove some mussels into the rice for the last few minutes of cooking which makes for a nice presentation.
                          P

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: PamelaD

                            I'm really surprised that the recipe you linked to from La Tienda doesn't credit Penelope Casas, since the recipe is almost word for word the one in "The Foods and Wines of Spain,"--and my go-to recipe as well. The La Tienda recipe specifies a couple of La Tienda products, whereas the Casas recipes calls for somewhat more generic ingredients. And you'll be pleased to know that the original recipe calls for 18 small mussels as well as 18 clams.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              They credit Spain Gourmetour magazine for the recipe. I found that magazine online, but their search function does not help me find that particular recipe. Their recipes are archived with each issue.

                              Browsing their issues, I found this recipe that maximizes the socarrat:
                              'This “arroz a la plancha” is a new version of “socarrat”, the crust of rice that sticks to the bottom of the paella and that everybody loves so much that no-one ever gets enough. '
                              The cooked rice is fried, by the tablespoon full in a non-stick skillet. The result appears to be a 'socarrat tapa'.

                              http://www.spaingourmetour.com/icex/c...

                          2. I have a paella pan, but you can also use pizza pan or a flat pan that can fit in the oven, and the stove top.

                            You can actually prepare it in a good oven proof pan.

                            I think a key ingredient to a good paella is using a bit of fish stock and real spanish dry chorizo. If your store does not have a spanish type chorize, do not substitute with another sausage.
                            The recipe can look complicated by it actually is not. The important part is the sofrito, this will create the great paella taste. You can add what ever you want. I once did it with small lobster tails, and they were really lost in the complexity of the paella, For the money that you would spend on the lobster, you could get nice musells, shrimp, fish clams and scallops. The chicken and chorizo add a very nice flavor. I have made the mistake of adding too much to the dish, remember the rice is pretty filling too. I might portion it out to 3 clams, 4 musells, 3-4 shrimp and chicken thigh, and 2 scallops per person, this fish sort of melds into the dish. You will be tempted to want to over by certain items, but try not too.

                            You can probably prepare it in 45 minutes if you have everything prepped ahead of time.

                            Keep in mind it is just a rice dish, with stuff.

                            When setting the good stuff into the pan, portion it out in an even manor, ie: as if it was a pie. When you serve someone, you do not want to pick a different portions, each guest will more or less have a slice or section.

                            I have lived in Spain, and would eat it once a week, I have never seen it served with mayo/aioli on the side.

                            I have found this recipe to be fairly good.

                            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sa...

                            Good luck. let us know how it turns out.

                            1. Here's a recipe from Jacques Pepin 'more fast food my way'. I haven't tried it, but he has a reputation for providing reliable recipes. He readily admits to the difference between this and the more traditional:

                              http://www.kqed.org/w/morefastfoodmyw...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: paulj

                                Paella is one of those dishes that is generally at least good if you use decent ingredients, but it is hard to perfect unless you make it a lot--consistently getting the right amount of liquid, right cooking temperature, etc. is a challenging. Strongly agree that stirring is anathema to a good paella! I use Penelope Casas' recipe in "Delicioso"--it yields the best results for me.

                                I have noticed an extremely disappointing trend in Spain: Most inexpensive or moderately priced restaurants seem to offer only commercial versions of paella--you can recognize these because they have a glossy menu with pictures of the different varieties. This is especially true in tourist areas. Quality is mediocre at best--tastes like the dish is built around parboiled rice and bouillon. Caveat emptor!

                                1. re: paulj

                                  Here's Jose Andres's version, from a TV series, Chef's Story.

                                  http://www.chefsstory.com/recipe1.html

                                2. DaisyM:

                                  How did your Paella turn out?