I still find myself writing about life and experiences through food! No matter our differences in life, everyone loves a good dish. My husband and I always preferred experiencing new things together over getting material gifts for each other. For our special occasions, we have gotten each other gifts that range from sky-diving and parasailing to cooking classes and dance lessons. Experiences together not only bring us closer to one another but they also create memories that last a lifetime, stories to tell our kids and a bond that can never be broken. So on that note, last year we went to a cooking class together at Sur La Table to learn how to make Spanish Paella for my birthday. We had a cappuccino, appetizers, and the best part – we laughed and got to eat the most delicious foods.
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Just like previous posts where I made dishes that emphasize the importance of community, Spanish food culture is all about community and tapas style entertaining. It has Mediterranean and European influence with a variety of flavors from salty Spanish olives to flaky fish and sweet oranges. Just writing this description makes my mouth water!
I am no expert at making Paella, but I always like finding intimidating dishes to make and then realizing they were not that bad! The key to Paella is cooking it in a Paella pan. It’s important for all the rice to cook in one layer where each grain of rice can absorb the juices from the sauce, the seafood and the spices to make that divine taste! This is the pan I used – it serves 6-8 people, which is perfect for getting SECONDS. Depending on the number of people you are expecting, you can get an 8-inch pan for 2-4 people or even an 18-inch pan for 10-12 people. For the size of most stoves, 13-inch works best.
In the class, we learned how to make a Chicken Paella but I adapted that recipe to make this Seafood Paella and I have linked all the hard-to-find ingredients in the recipe below!
Spanish Seafood Paella Recipe
- 2 tilapia or cod fillet
- 1/2 cup of sliced Chorizo or Andouille sausage
- 1/2 cup small scallops
- 10 mussels in shell
- 1/2 cup shrimp
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 pinch saffron
- 2 tsp pimenton (I have both the sweet smoked and the hot but I only used the sweet smoked since kids were eating)
- 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 cups Spanish paella rice (This is the rice I used.)
- 1/3 cup frozen peas
- 1 tbsp capers (rinsed and drained)
- 1 recipe Sofrito sauce (see below)
Start with making 1 cup of Sofrito sauce. This is generally the base sauce of all paellas. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup of yellow onions, stirring for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup finely diced red pepper and 1 tbsp of garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup tomatoes, 1/2 tsp pimenton, 1/2 tsp salt and bay leaf. Reduce heat and cook until sauce thickens. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and remove bay leaf. (Set aside or freeze for future use). If you want to buy a ready made sauce, they have it here.
Heat chicken broth in a separate small saucepan.
In paella pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sausage. Saute for about 1 minute. Remove from pan and set aside. Add fish to pan and saute with some lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for only 1-2 minutes as you do not want it to over cook. Remove from pan. In the center of the pan, add the spices and toast for 30 seconds. Add the sofrito sauce and make a paste with the spices. Add 3 cups hot broth and then stir in rice. Make sure that the rice is distributed among the pan. Add the fish, sausage and raw shrimp, scallops and mussels into the pan and boil for 5-7 minutes or until “rice starts to break the surface.” Reduce the heat and cover. I used a cookie sheet and I laid it across the pan to cover it since paella pans do not come with a cover. Simmer for 10 minutes. I always taste my food when making it. If the rice seems a bit crunchy after 10 minutes, add a bit more broth and cover for an additional 2 minutes. Then remove the lid and increase the heat for about 2 more minutes to caramelize the bottom layer of rice. Do not let it burn, just caramelize. Then remove from heat and add the capers and peas. Garnish with lemons. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving so all the flavors get infused together.
I always squeeze lemon on top of my dish and it adds the perfect finish!
Enjoy with a glass of white wine which pairs well with the seafood.
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