Along with menudo, puchero, and fabada, paella is one of the most beloved dishes from Spanish colonial legacy that have become associated with special occasions. Over the centuries, paella in the Philippines has evolved into countless versions — from ultra meaty to meatless to black (colored with squid ink) to regional variations that use sticky rice in place of the traditional medium-grain rice. Seafood paella, however, remains the favorite with its generous amount of large shrimps, mussels, clams and, occasionally, crabs.
All About Paella
Traditionally, paella is cooked outdoors over live fire or charcoal which gives the dish a wonderful smoky undertone. A paella pan — wide, shallow and uncovered — is also traditional. If outdoor cooking is not feasible, cook the paella on a gas stove. For those with no paella pan, use any wide and shallow pan.
For the seafood broth in the ingredients list, simply boil fish heads and bones in water then strain. Chicken broth is an acceptable alternative.
While most paella recipes from North America use shelled shrimps, it's best to keep the shrimps' heads, shells and tails intact because much of the shrimp flavor is in them. You may optionally want to cut a slit through the back of the shrimps to expose and remove the black thread (the digestive system) that runs through the entire length of the animal's body.
- 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) large mussels
- 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) clams
- 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) medium to large shrimps
- 1 large yellow onion
- 2 large tomatoes
- 4 to 6 bell peppers
- 1 teaspoon saffron
- 6 cups seafood broth
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cups medium-grain rice (see guide for choosing rice)
- Dash salt (or to taste)
- Dash pepper (or to taste)
- 3 lemons
- 1 cup sweet peas
- Rinse the mussels and clams. Clean the shells using a stiff brush. Place in separate large bowls, cover with water and put in the fridge. Leave to soak for a few hours. You may need to change the clam's water a few times if the clams are rather sandy.
- Snip off the antennae of the shrimps.
- Drain and rinse the clams and mussels several times. Pull out the mussel beards.
- Chop the onion.
- Halve the tomatoes and squeeze out the seeds. Grate using the largest holes of a box grater.
- Halve the bell peppers and remove the seeds. Dice the bell peppers.
- Heat half a cup of the seafood broth. Sprinkle the saffron over the hot broth.
- Set the paella pan over medium-high heat. Pour in the olive oil. Use a wooden spatula to spread the oil over the entire bottom of the pan.
- Saute the chopped onion and grated tomatoes until the onion pieces appear translucent. Add the rice. Stir to coat every grain with oil.
- Pour in the seafood broth and the saffron with its soaking liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Stir then leave to boil for ten minutes.
- Grate the zest of one lemon. Cut the two other lemons into wedges or slices.
- Scatter the lemon zest, diced bell peppers, sweet peas, shrimps, clams and mussels over the rice. Cook for another ten minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Cover loosely with a large sheet of foil and leave to rest for ten minutes. Squeeze one lemon (the one without the zest) over the cooked paella.
- Serve with lemon wedges or slices on the side.