Authentic Seafood Paella at Beechwood Inn: This classic grilled rice dish from Spain seems intimidating, but making it on the stove top couldn’t be simpler—no grill needed. While the combination of ingredients ranges from the traditional rabbit and snails to vegetables and seafood, this version, known as paella mixta, contains seafood, Spanish chorizo, and rabbit or chicken. But the key to this dish is the rice: fluffy but not too moist, with the prized layer of crusty caramelized rice, called socarrat, on the bottom of the pan.
Authentic Seafood Paella at Beechwood Inn
Authentic Seafood Paella at Beechwood Inn in the North Georgia Mountains:
Special equipment: This dish is named after the two-handled pan it is cooked in. You will need a 15-inch paella pan because its wide surface area ensures that the rice cooks in a thin, even layer.
What to buy: Spanish chorizo (not to be confused with its Mexican counterpart) is a dried, smoked, ready-to-eat pork sausage. It can be mild or spicy, and is found at gourmet markets or online. If you can’t find Spanish chorizo, you can sub in some andouille sausage.
Paella rice, sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia, is a white short-grain rice prized for its ability to stay firm when cooked. It can be found in gourmet grocery stores. If you can’t find paella rice, Arborio rice can be substituted, although the texture will be slightly softer when cooked.
3 cups bomba or calasparra rice (arborio risotto works as a substitute)
8 cups chicken stock
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large bell pepper, diced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
0.5 (4 ounce) can tomato paste
15 large shrimp (feel free to add clams, calamari, prawns or mussels)
2 -3 lbs rabbit or chicken thighs
4 links chorizo sausages, frito sliced into 1 inch pieces
1⁄2 cup fresh parsley
2 -3 tablespoons fresh thyme
1⁄2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 pinch saffron
3 lemons, quartered
It’s best to have all of your ingredients prepared before you start cooking. Prepare the rabbit by separating the legs, cutting remaining meat into small slices and lightly salting. (In our area rabbit is seasonal. During the summer and fall I substitute with chicken thighs).
I peel my shrimp, leaving only the tail and then salt them. In Spain they tend to leave the shrimp unshelled.
I always try to make my chicken stock from scratch (time permitting), adding a bit of rosemary, a tiny pinch of saffron and a bit of thyme.
Keep your stock hot but not boiling as you cook.
Authentic Seafood Paella at Beechwood Inn:
Coat the bottom of your paella/pan with olive oil. Brown your chorizo over high heat for 1-2 minutes. Do not fully cook, just get the outside well browned. Set aside. This should add a nice red color and flavor to your oil.
Brown the Rabbit/chicken for 2-3 minutes. It should not be fully cooked. Set aside.
Brown garlic, onion and bell pepper until they’re softened, adding plum tomatoes shortly before the mixture is finished.
Push the vegetables to one side of the pan and on the other add the half can of tomato paste. Caramelize it, flipping it and spreading it until it begins to loosen (1-2 min over high heat).
Mix all of the vegetables and meats together with the caramelized tomato paste also adding the paprika, parsley and thyme.
Add rice, mixing together and stirring as the rice browns (1-1 1/2) minutes. As the rice browns mix in the saffron. Make sure to break it between your fingers and stir it in to release all those tasty oils.
When the rice is slightly translucent add enough chicken stock to cover the whole mixture. If it’s been kept warm, it will begin to boil almost immediately. Lower to a medium heat but keep it at a steady boil.
This is where paella is made and broken. I stir a few times in the first 5-10 minutes, adding broth as necessary to keep the rice fully covered. After this you must let the paella SIT! Let it cook another 10-20 minutes (I find that this step takes longer on a stove top), adding broth bit by bit to keep the rice submerged until the rice on the top is al dente. Don’t worry about rice burning to the bottom, this part is a tasty delicacy.
Arrange the reserved shrimp and the shellfish (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Place the pan in the oven and bake at 400 until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.
I’ve taken the lid off prematurely and ended up with a crunchy mess. Patience is the key.
Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Before serving the paella, discard any unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with the parsley. Serve with the lemon wedges.
Authentic Seafood Paella at Beechwood Inn