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Feb 12, 2009 02:58 PM

Paella Help

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.

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  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:

    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!)?


                    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.

                      1. re: BigSal

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


            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).
              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:


                  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)

                      the blog by the author also looks interesting
                      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
                      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).


                      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.