Around our house, this is still a very busy time of year. Christmas may be past, but we are still in the midst of lots of family and friends visiting casually while looking forward to celebrating the new year. We have had fun doing the “staycation” thing, while we show family around and enjoy our lovely San Luis Obispo County. There has been some window shopping, some great restaurant food and some amazing nature walks soaking up the salt air. However, after days of gallivanting around, our feet our tired and we just want to sit back and have a good visit. If you find that you are also craving some casual time at home with friends and family, you might be interested in this crowd pleaser. Paella is easy to whip up and delivers robust flavors while being loaded with oodles of comfort. Besides, if you have spent anytime on the coast like we have the last couple of days, a good seafood paella puts the finishing touch to a lovely day.
One of the reasons that this makes such a fabulous dish for entertaining is the the ingredients, plan and simple. They are bright, beautiful, and unadulterated. Simply gorgeous!
Seafood & Veggie Paella
3 cups Bomba or Valencia Rice
(crucial that you get the right rice!…I picked mine up at Whole Foods)
a good pinch of saffron threads (Trader Joe’s has the best price!)
1/4 cup of Grand Marnier
4.5 cups of seafood broth
2 handfuls of fresh green beans
1 red onion
5 cloves of garlic
1 lbs of fresh fish (your preference, I used fresh cod)
2 lbs total of shrimp, scallops, and calamari
2 fresh tomatoes
2 bell peppers
1 tbls of paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bunch of parsley
salt & pepper, to taste
The other great thing about this dish: it is a blast to prepare with friends. Pour a few glasses of wine while you get to chopping and chatting with your guests. It makes for the very best hostessing experience. Everyone loves to gather in the kitchen and play while they visit.
While you are busy chopping away and having some laughs, make sure to soak your pinch of saffron in some Grand Marnier. The flavor and the color will be stunning!
Once everything is chopped and ready for the pan, it is time to get cooking! Since our group was only 6 or 7 in number, I chose to make my paella with only 3 cups of Valencia rice.
Start by coating a paella pan (or if you only have a regular pan) with olive oil. Once it is warm, make a “sofrito” by adding in your onions, garlic, paprika, tomatoes and bell peppers. Give it a good sizzle before you add in your rice. Toss the rice til it is coated in the olive oil and warmed.
Once the liquid starts to bubble and boil, add in your fresh fish and bury it bit in the hot rice. The key to a great paella is to not move it around a ton. This is not supposed to be a creamy risotto. You are looking fro things to get a tad crusty and muy delicioso!
Season generously with salt (remember that seafood LOVES salt) and pepper.
Once the fluid is mostly cooked out, add the rest of the seafood broth followed by your Grand Marnier steeped saffron and the green beans. Then quickly add in your shellfish.
Remember to bury your seafood and try to not stir to much. Just push the mixture around a bit until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Once it is tender, make sure your paella is evenly spread out so that you can build a bit of a crust on the bottom. Toss in some parsley as a final embellishment so that it will keep it’s bright green flavor and color.
Once it is a bit crusty on the bottom, it is ready to dig in!
With a good squeeze of lemon and a great glass of wine, let the chatting and good times roll. This paella will make even a New Year celebration feel special.