Barcelona's Paella

Paella is the Rorschach test of Spanish cuisine. Some see the dish as little more than a bed of flavored rice, its yellow fluffiness largely obscured by the meaty morsels packed into the pan: the sausage and the shrimp, the clams and the calamaries.  In Valencia, Spain, the place where the dish originated in the 19th century, paella is seen as hearty workers’ food, a dish with saffron-scented rice mixed with three types of Spanish beans – ferraura, garrofo, and tavella – along with plenty of animal protein in the form of rabbit and snails.  

 

But what if you want an authentic, Valencian-style paella, but you’re not feeling the snails and don’t care much for a hare in your food?  Well, you’re in luck because the paella you want to see on your plate is right here in town. Executive Chef Kevin Lalli at Barcelona has developed a version of the classic dish that brings in seafood while keeping the traditional base.  It starts with the rice and the salt and the sofrito, a traditional Spanish sauce created by simmering chopped onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes and spices in olive oil.  “You can’t have,” Chef Kevin says, “paella without sofrito.”  You also can’t have it, at least the really good kind like Barcelona’s, without saffron – an ancient and very expensive spice, the stigmas and styles plucked from the center of a crocus – that help lend the dish its rich and wonderful flavor.   

We tried the Paella Mariscos with shrimp, mussels, clams, and squid and it was superb. Also available are a Paella Salvaje – gaucho, chorizo, pork belly – or Vegetable Paella with squash, parsnips and mushrooms.  However, regardless of which paella you put on your plate, don’t enjoy it while thirsty.  Barcelona has one of the finest wine lists in the city with a taste for every palette. We enjoyed the Vinedos Serranos, a very drinkable, fruit-forward red with our Paella Mariscos.   

Vive la paella!  

 

May 10, 2018

Ingredients

Paella Mariscos
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 giant prawns, with heads and shells on
  • 2 ounces squid rings and tentacles, cleaned
  • 1 cup bomba paella rice
  • 1/2 cup sofrito (see recipe below)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups seafood stock
  • 6 Littleneck clams
  • 10 mussels
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 lemon wedges
Paella Sofrito
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and very finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and very finely diced
  • 8-10 threads saffron
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup crushed plum tomatoes

Instructions

Paella Mariscos

1. To prepare, preheat oven to 400°F. 

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in in a paella pan (or extra-large stainless steel skillet) over medium heat. Add prawns and squid; sear on both sides until lightly browned; transfer to a plate and set aside. 

3. Add rice, sofrito and salt to the pan; stir until rice is thoroughly coated in oil and starts to turn translucent. Spread out the rice so it covers the bottom of the pan, add stock and bring to a simmer (do not stir). 

4. Place clams on top of rice, spacing them out evenly. Cover pan with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Cook until clams open up, liquid is absorbed and rice is al dente, about 15-20 minutes. Check for doneness and add more stock if needed. 

5. Remove paella from oven, uncover and arrange mussels, prawns and squid on the rice. Recover with foil and return to the oven. Cook until mussels open and prawns are cooked through, about 5 minutes. 

6. Transfer paella pan back to the stovetop over low heat. Remove foil, drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil evenly over the rice, and let it cook undisturbed until the bottom starts to crust and caramelize, about 2 minutes. 

7. Remove from heat and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Finish paella with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, parsley and lemon wedges just before serving.

Paella Sofrito

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until lightly golden brown. Add onion, peppers and saffron; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions turn soft and translucent. 

2. Add wine, turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until reduced by half. 

3. Add tomatoes, simmer on low heat until the sauce is thick and all the liquid is cooked out, about 10 minutes. 

4. If not using immediately, let cool and refrigerate.

Ingredients

Paella Mariscos
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 giant prawns, with heads and shells on
  • 2 ounces squid rings and tentacles, cleaned
  • 1 cup bomba paella rice
  • 1/2 cup sofrito (see recipe below)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups seafood stock
  • 6 Littleneck clams
  • 10 mussels
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 lemon wedges
Paella Sofrito
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and very finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and very finely diced
  • 8-10 threads saffron
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup crushed plum tomatoes
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