Inspired by Bittmans paella recipe in the New York Times and a never used paella pan, I decided to make one. I was not comfortable cooking the proteins on top of the rice as Bittman suggests. I was unsure of the timing. I wasn't certain that the clams would open at all with this method and was concerned that the shrimps would overcook. I decided to cook all the proteins separately and include the accumulated juices to the rice to keep all the flavors. Suggestions?
Assuming you’re using the master paella recipe from April of this year, I have to say I think it’s a pretty sorry excuse for a paella and I think you’d have been better off choosing a different recipe for your first try at it. Bittman’s instructions simply aren’t sufficient if you haven’t already made a paella before and don’t know just what you want to achieve.
That said, whether or not you need to precook the vegetables would depend on what vegetables you’re using and what size you chop them. Fresh or frozen peas, sliced mushrooms, and chopped tomatoes would not need to be precooked. And although I’d never precook shrimp or squid for fear of overcooking, I often do place clams or mussels in the microwave for about 30 seconds, just until they begin to open, to ensure they cook thoroughly after being placed in the rice.
That master recipe sounds dull and uninteresting to me. What did you think of your results? Did it have any flavor?
Yes, it did have flavor, I think because I added all the juices from the clams etc. I sauteed most of the veggies with the rice and added the peas towards the end so they didn't overcook. It was the proteins I was having concern about, chicken mussels,and clams in particular. The taste was fine - nothing spectacular, but I felt there was some5thing missing.
I chose this recipe in part because my paella pan is too big to put in the oven.
Hmmm I just looked up the recipe and I think that his timings for adding meat/seafood is conservative! There's no way I would add seafood just after adding the rice to the pan! I guess he has been deliberately vague because hasn't specified the ingredients. But if I were adding shrimp, clams, mussels I would add them near the very end of cooking and then leave them all to finish off cooking with the heat turned off under a lid (or covered with foil because my paella pan is huge!) they handily have visual clues so it's hard to undercook them. As soon as I see that the shrimp is pink and the shellfish have opened you're ready to go.
I don't see any link to the recipe here. In any case, paella has a few key parameters, in my opinion, and it's mostly about the rice.
First, if you pre-cooked the seafood and then added extruded juices to the fluid in which you began to cook the rice, then I suspect that little loss of flavor would happen. But still, those shells have flavor to impart to the rice. The fluid in which the rice cooks determines its flavor.
The other factor is textural. Really the main idea behind paella is that you develop a crust at the bottom of the pan while managing also to cook the rice through at the top.
I haven't looked at Bitman's recipe and after your brief description don't think I'm too interested in taking the time to do it. (though I like and respect Bitman lots ' he a bit off base here IMHO).
Paella is one of those dishes - Simple is not easy. Very hard to get everything cooked correctly and done at the right time.
One thing that helped my Paella a lot was to learn how to cook Arroz's Con Pollo - sort of Paella without saffron or Sea food it takes a bit of skill to get it just right. Doesen't cost and arm and leg to make (I make it every couple weeks - I'm addicted( - when you master this Paella will be just as simple (but never easy:-)
Here's a link to Daisy Marteniz's recipe.
Here's one I made last week - looks just like Paella right? On Balance I would find another recipe and start again! Paella like Arroz's is more of a method than recipe.
Unless you are a skilled paella maker (as my brother in law is), I'd suggest finding a solid recipe from a respected writer and sticking to it.
In my experience, meat proteins usually get something of a fry to start them off before going into the rice, whilst seafood just goes on top.