Paella is wonderful because it takes advantage of the "everything but the kitchen sink" mentality. It can be made with simple local ingredients or the fruits of foreign lands. I most prefer a delicate tango of both, with a heavy emphasis on quality. If you can't get fresh seafood in your area, go for an assortment of meats, and frozen shrimp can be found in most mega-marts. This particular recipe comes from my dad, but he insists on using lobster and I disprove of some of his techniques. The shrimp stock addition came from my sister and it is an absolute must! This recipe is great for large dinner parties and, though rather traditional, is surprisingly killer and by far the best paella I've ever had. We always make it on the grill, which lends more smokiness than the conventional oven method. Cooking the rice in oil first before adding any liquid enhances the nutty characteristics of the grain and the Spanish paprika (though expensive and sometimes difficult to find) really makes the dish. While chorizo may be more traditional, I can never find a Spanish one here in South Texas and the Mexican version doesn't cut it for me. The sublimely cooked rice is achieved through the process of cooking in a heavy pan, not stirring too often, and adding a bit of broth at the end and letting it rest. I usually use two 12 inch cast iron pans, but my dad recently received a giant paella pan for his birthday. I still prefer my cast irons, but he swears by his new prized pig of the kitchen--the pan takes up its own shelf! —SaucerJess
8 hungry, hungry hippos
7 1/4 cups
shrimp stock (recipe follows)
olive oil (don’t use extra-virgin—the sweet flavors will be ruined by the heat)
chicken thighs (bone-in and skin-on, please!)
small onions, diced
cloves garlic, smashed and minced
dash fish sauce (really, a tiny dash is all that is required)
andouille sausage, cut into ½ inch chunks
glass dry white wine
can stewed tomatoes, diced (the stewed part here is important)
jar pimento or slices
peeled shrimp (but buy the ones with heads and shells on for the stock)
clams or mussels
2 oz cuts of monkfish (I buy the 4 ounce fillets and cut them myself)
warm the shrimp stock in a sauce pan until hot to the touch, add the saffron, and set aside.
heat two cast iron pans (or paella pans if you’ve got ‘em) with ½ of the oil and sear the chicken on all sides (make sure you’ve patted the chicken dry and salted it with kosher salt to get a good sear).
add the remainder of the oil and the onions, split between the two pans, along with a pinch of kosher salt and cook until translucent on a medium-low heat.
add the arborio rice to each pan, turn up the heat, and cook for about 3 minutes.
add the garlic, fish sauce, sausage, paprika, wine and tomatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes.
add the peas and pimentos or olives, pour in 7 cups of the warm shrimp stock, reserving ¼ cup, and stir thoroughly once.
top each pan with the fish and shellfish and put in the hot oven (or on the grill and close the cover).
leave it alone for 15-20 minutes and check to see that the rice is done and the shellfish have opened (if some don’t open be sure to toss them out).
pour in the remaining ¼ cup shrimp stock to each paella and top with parsley.