This dish is the most representative of Spain. Everyone knows paella, yet not many know how to make it right. The intensity of flavor in the stock you make will be one of the most important factors for a good paella, as will the width of your pan. Believe it or not, it makes all the difference.
Technique tip: Sear the rice in the pan before adding the stock to give the rice a crispier texture. To clean the squid at home, remove the inner parts with your fingers, cutting the inner core just above the tentacles. Don't discard any of these ugly parts as they will make a rich stock.
Swap option: Use any seafood you can get your hands on.
- Extra virgin olive oil, for frying
- Heads and shells from the prawns, langoustines or shrimp (see below)
- The inner parts of the fresh squid, ink included (see below)
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 rib celery, roughly chopped
- 1 small leek, roughly chopped
- 1 head garlic, halved
- 3 black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tomato, roughly chopped
- 3½ tablespoons brandy
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3 white fish carcasses, or 1 cod or monkfish head or 2 fish stock cubes
- 2 teaspoons saffron threads
- 1 pound fresh squid, tubes, wings and tentacles roughly chopped, inner parts removed but reserved for the stock
- 3½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more
- 1 red Romano or bell pepper, cut into thick strips
- 7 ounces flat green or runner beans, chopped (optional)
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (also called pimentón)
- 2 tomatoes (about 10 ounces), grated
- 2 heaping cups paella rice, such as bomba, senia or bahia
- 1 pound fresh prawns and/or langoustines (or substitute shrimp), a few whole, otherwise heads and shells removed and reserved
- 10 mussels and/or clams, cleaned
For the shellfish stock:
1. Heat a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a casserole dish over the highest heat. Add the head and shells of the prawns and langoustines (or shrimp) and brown them for 2 minutes. Add the reserved inner parts of the squid, the carrot, onion, celery, leeks, garlic halves, black peppercorns and bay leaf and let caramelize until the vegetables are a dark golden color. Add the tomato and cook for 2 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and slowly pour in the brandy. Return to heat and carefully tilt the pan (keeping your head and hair well back ) to catch the brandy on fire. Let them flames go out on their own, and then add the white wine. Continue to cook until the alcohol burns off and reduces down until completely gone, then add 3 quarts water and the fish bones or stock cubes.
3. Simmer the stock for no longer than 45 minutes, using a hand blender to blitz it after 30 minutes (yes, shells and bones included) to extract as much flavor as possible out of every ingredient. After 45 minutes, pass through a very fine mesh sieve into another pot. You should have about 2 quarts of intense, flavorsome shellfish stock. Add the saffron and reduce the heat to a simmer until needed.
For the paella:
1. Place a paella pan or wide frying pan over the highest heat, then add the olive oil, chopped squid and salt. Let the water from the squid evaporate. Then add the red pepper and green beans and stir constantly so that all the ingredients brown nicely.
2. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute before adding the sweet paprika. Stir again and cook for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes (if the garlic or paprika start to burn, add the tomatoes a little earlier).
3. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes to sear the rice. Pour the hot stock over the rice and give everything a good stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure all the caramelized bits are incorporated into the stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed (at this point it should taste very salty).
4. Set a timer for 18 minutes and let the rice mixture boil over the highest heat for 10 minutes (or until the liquid has reduced down to almost level with the rice), then reduce the heat to low. Scatter the prawns, langoustines, mussels and/or clams over the top of the rice. Top with the reserved whole prawns. Season them lightly with salt.
5. Let cook for the remaining 8 minutes, until the liquid is gone and you can hear that the rice in the bottom of the pan start to fry.
6. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.