PAELLA ON THE BEACH

O.K. I’ve gotten a couple of requests for the paella recipe. I’ll try to write one up, but it’s more of a method description than a quantity accurate and totally reproducible transcript.

We grill ours in a traditional soft carbon steel iron paella pan, placed directly on our barbecue grill. The grill we bring with us is the small Weber Smokey Joe Silver. It’s a small, portable, covered kettle form charcoal grill. This particular model is widely available and inexpensive.

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We’ve found that this particular grill accommodates a 14″ pan perfectly. We got ours on line, it was also very inexpensive There’s no need to spend a fortune on a designer pan, just to set it over the coals. Also (believe it or not) – a well seasoned carbon steel pan actually adds flavor to the dish.

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To keep the fire going in the grill while we cook we hook three standard department store steel S-hooks over the edge of the grill, then set the pan on top. This provides just enough air space between the pan and the grill to maintain the coals. Without the S hooks, the fire will smother. The hooks don’t hook onto the pan, they just provide a tripod of balance – enough to keep the pan stable while leaving about a quarter inch of airspace all the way around its bottom.

Taking care that the grill is level, we set a medium-large bed of coals going. The fire will need to start hot, then continue for about 45 minutes, so a largish one is in order.

While the fire is heating up we prepare:

INGREDIENTS:

Cooking Vegetables:

About 1.5 cups of diced sweet onion

About 1.5 cups of diced green pepper

4-5 cloves of garlic (more if they’re small), minced fine

Meat:

1 flavorful sausage, preferably linguica, although we’ve also used andouille, chorizo or other garlic sausage, cut into 3/4 inch slices, about 1.5 to 2 cups

6 chicken thighs, bone in. If large, cut into two parts, leaving one with bone and one without.

Highly optional – a piece of good ham, about the size of a loin pork chop, cubed. The sausage and chicken is more than enough meat, but if you have to use a lesser sausage, the ham will add additional savor.

Seafood:

2.5 pounds mixed seafood, to include shelled, deveined raw shrimp (tail on), fresh scallops (cut into two hemispheres if large); cleaned squid bodies and tentacles with the bodies cut into rings, then fringed by making nicks around the edges about 1/4 inch apart. We’ve also used fresh monkfish or other mild, white flesh large flake fish, but we prefer the squid/scallops/shrimp combo.

One dozen small steamer size or littleneck size fresh clams. Mussels will do in a pinch, but the clams are best. It helps to pour some boiling water over them just before they go into the dish, especially if they’re littlenecks or larger.

Highly optional – one small chick lobster (1.25 lb), raw, but cut into manageable segments, with the body rinsed and cleaned of tomalley (reserve roe if the lobster is a female and stir it into the rice before adding the meats). Very luxurious touch, but in my opinion it’s just gilding the lily.

Broth:

1 quart chicken stock, preferably low-salt if using store-bought

1 medium size sweet onion peeled but left whole

1 WHOLE VIAL of good quality Spanish saffron – about 1 gram (Nepali saffron although less expensive isn’t a viable substitute). Since we stay out in Truro in Cape Cod we get ours at Atlantic Spice, just down the street.

Other stuff:

3 cups of short grain rice. We use Kokuho Rose or Nishiki California grown Japanese style rice. We find they’re higher quality (less broken grains/dust) and more tasty than the rices sold under the Goya or other specialty market brands.

Olive oil

Dry white wine, about a cup

Fresh ground black pepper

Finishing:

A 6oz jar of roasted pimentos, drained and diced

About 6 oz (half bag or whole box) frozen plain petite peas (do not use canned!), run under tap water until they unclump.

Salt (very little of this is needed because the seafood and sausage are both salty)

Optional: Capers for garnish

COOKING METHOD:

Put the broth, whole onion and ENTIRE 1 gram vial of saffron into a sauce pan and bring it to a simmer, then reduce the heat. The onion is just there for flavor and won’t be used in the final dish.

Once the coals are ready, we spread them out taking care not to lump them all in the center of the grill. You want a horizon to horizon stable hotness, not a volcano in the center surrounded by cool edges. We fit the pan onto the grill taking care to ensure that it is as level as possible.

We put a goodly amount of olive oil into the pan and when it’s hot, toss in the sausage (and ham if we’re using it). We sear the meat until it’s lightly colored, then scoop it out and set it aside. Then we add the chicken, skin side down to the same pan (adding oil if necessary). We sear that, too – cooking it on both sides until it’s almost but not entirely done, then we take it out and set it aside.

After the meat and chicken are cooked we cook the seafood. We usually start with the scallops because they are the wettest, letting the oil become maxhot again, then searing them on both sides and removing them to a separate bowl from the meats. After the scallops we cook the shrimp and then the squid, both just enough to firm them up and color them, but not enough to cook through (they’ll be added back and cooked more later). All of the cooked seafood can be set aside in one bowl together, although each element should be cooked separately. If you’re using a fin fish, cook it last and very lightly, again just enough to barely firm it up, then remove it from the pan and set it aside.

Now let the oil heat up again. Replenish if necessary. Toss in the garlic, green pepper and diced onion and saute until the onions are lightly translucent. Toss in the rice on top of the veggies and saute the rice for a couple of minutes, long enough to moisten all of it with hot oil and loose that raw rice look.

Now it’s time to begin adding the saffron-laced hot chicken stock which by now should be ultra fragrant and very yellow, almost orange. Don’t bother straining it, let the saffron threads flow freely into the rice. Add a good size ladle full of stock to the rice/veg and stir it slowly over the fire until it’s about 80% absorbed. Add another ladle full and repeat. Then add a cup of the white wine and stir similarly, almost like you’re making risotto. Continue adding stock and wine alternately, slowly and stirring until you’ve got only a cup or so of the stock left and all of the wine is used. The rice should be on its way to being cooked, and the grains should not be as totally soft and amorphous as risotto. At this stage they should still be minorly crunchy in the center. Add ground black pepper to taste, salt too – but remember that all that seafood and sausage is salty and you’ll need way less than you think.

We’re ready to add back the other ingredients. Toss in the peas and diced pimentos and stir. Then add the sausage and chicken, taking care that they’re nicely distributed. Ditto the cooked seafood. Take the in-shell pre-warmed clams and bury them in the rice hinge side down. If the paella looks like it’s dry (there’s nothing bubbly) add the reserved stock.

Now comes the fun part. Pour yourself a glass of wine, admire the beach sunset and watch the thing cook totally uncovered. Wait for the clams to open. Keep an eye on the pan though. The rice at the bottom should make a yummy golden brown crust, but if the fire’s too hot that crust can become charred. If necessary, slow your fire down by lifting the pan (with pot holders!) and sprinkling the coals with a cup of water. Otherwise just watch the paella bubble. Taste a grain of rice now and then. If it still seems crunchy when the clams are beginning to open, add the rest of the stock. If you’ve run out of stock, add a ladle of water. In the pix below we’ve just combined the whole thing and are watching the bubbling goodness, waiting for the clams. This takes about 15 to 20 min or so, depending on the fire.

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Open clams and soft rice = done. Take it off the fire, put it on a trivet (the pan is HOT), sprinkle with a couple tablespoons of capers, grab some nice crunchy bread and more wine, then enjoy! This pan feeds us as a voracious family of four for a main course dinner, with enough leftover to be a side dish for another night or two.

A lot of work for beach food? Not really. It’s a half hour of prep mostly dicing the veg and cleaning the seafood, then about another half hour standing over the grill with a drink in hand.


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One response

  1. Oh, thank you, thank you for being so kind. I was sooooo hoping you’d give us that recipe. Have printed it! We’re in for a big treat!

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