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Author Notes: Not ever having eaten a truly authentic paella on which to base this recipe, I decided instead to start with a few flavors I really love, incorporate some tried and true paella techniques, and see where this experiment would take me. I’m pleased to say that this dish took me somewhere beautiful (though you can hardly tell by the picture above), deeply flavorful and really fun.
My launch point for the dish was a Tom Colicchio spiced lobster recipe that I have loved for years. To that lobster I added a soffritto made with onions, celery and fennel, some concentrated crushed tomatoes, lobster stock, an ancho and a roasted red pepper, pimenton, chourizo, peas and roasted fennel. All of this was cooked more or less in a traditional manner for a paella, and when served spritzed with some fresh lemon juice and sprinkled with minced tarragon and chives, yielded a really tasty dish that I will surely be making again.
- 3 1 1/2 pound live lobsters
- 2 chourizo sausages
- 2 fennel bulbs, cored, thinly sliced and roasted - fronds reserved for stock
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups peas
- 3/4 cup soffritto
- 1/2 cup crushed san marzano tomatoes, strained to remove excess liquid
- 1 large red pepper
- 1 dried ancho pepper, rehydrated and finely minced
- 3 1/2 - 4 cups lobster stock *
- “Lobster Spice” * to taste (coriander, fennel, mustard, bay and cayenne)
- 1 teaspoon pimenton
- 1 pinch saffron
- lemon wedges
- finely minced tarragon and chives
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- For the soffritto: In a large, high sided saute pan place 1 3/4 cups EVOO, 4 cups finely minced onion, 2 cups finely minced celery, and 2 cups finely minced fennel bulb. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables take on a color of a light caramel (amber) and become very sweet. This will likely take from between 2-3 hours. Remove from heat and let cool. This recipe will make about 4 cups of soffritto, refrigerate or freeze the balance for a future use...it will make practically ANYTHING taste better.
- For the lobster and stock: Pull apart the three lobsters, separating the tails and claws from the bodies. Wrap the claws and tails in two layers of plastic wrap and par-cook in salted boiling water, 4 minutes for the tails, 6 minutes for the claws. Remove from the boil, cool under cold running water, unwrap and using poultry shears, remove the meat from the shells. Refrigerate the meat until ready to use, reserve the shell pieces for making the stock. (If pulling apart live lobsters makes you squeamish, place them head-first in boiling water for about 1 minute to kill them before dismembering, then proceed with the process as written). Split the bodies in half running from the eyes to the tail, remove and discard any tomalley and the head-sack from the carapace, reserve the cleaned bodies for the stock. In a large stock pot, sweat a couple of chopped shallots, a chopped large carrot, a chopped branch of celery, and a few sprigs of fresh tarragon. Add the uncooked, split lobster bodies and cook until they have turned red. Add the reserved cooked claw and tail shells, the chopped fennel fronds (from the 2 bulbs), and a bay leaf. Cover with water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about an hour, skimming scum from the surface as necessary. When done, strain through a fine mesh strainer, put 4 cups into a saucepan and reserve, freeze the rest for a future use.
- For the lobster spice: Take 1 teaspoon each of fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds and toast them lightly in a small pan. Transfer them to a spice mill along with 1 bay leaf and a pinch of cayenne pepper and grind to a powder.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400?. Core and slice each fennel bulb into 1/4 inch thick slices, toss with EVOO, salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet and roast until caramelized, about 25 minutes, flip slices about halfway through cooking. Place into a bowl, cover and reserve. Core and seed the red pepper, cut into long thin strips, toss with EVOO, salt and pepper and roast until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add to the cooked fennel and reserve.
- When ready to make the paella, crush a pinch of saffron and add it to the stock, heat the stock until it boils, then turn the heat to low and keep it at the ready. Sprinkle the lobster meat with salt, pepper and some “lobster spice”, cook in EVOO in the paella pan set over low-medium heat until it just firms up and is cooked though, remove from the heat and reserve. Turn the heat up to medium, slice the chourizo on a bias and add to the paella pan with another splash of EVOO if needed. Cook until nicely browned, then remove from pan and reserve. Pour off any excess fat from the sausage, then put the pan back on the heat and add the soffritto, the strained crushed tomatoes, the minced ancho chili, the pimenton, and the wine. Let cook until the alcohol from the wine has evaporated.
- Add the rice and half of the hot stock and stir gently to incorporate the rice. Let it sit undisturbed until the liquid has been incorporated. Add another 1 1/2 cups of stock, keeping back 1/2 cup in case you need it at the end, stir again gently, then take a quick taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. When the liquid is almost fully absorbed check the rice, and if done to your liking, pull the pan from the heat. If not, ad the remaining stock and finish cooking. When removed from the heat, quickly stir the peas and the roasted fennel into the rice. Lay the lobster, chourizo and red pepper strips on the rice in some sort of fanciful design, press into the rice to warm, then cover the pan and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Spritz the surface with fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with minced tarragon and chive, serve with additional lemon wedges.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Paella