Life is – far too often – lived at a fast pace. Sometimes, that’s what we want. We want to rush through everything – brushing our teeth. The monotonous work day. Sunday meal prep. That awkward dinner party with your drunk uncle who just wants to talk about politics. I get it. Things like that, we want to get over with as quickly as possible.
Then, there are those times where life shouldn’t be rushed. Childhood (hello? no bills?). A great first date. THE WEEKEND. And paella.
The beauty behind paella is that you take the time to build flavor into the dish. Carefully, thoughtfully adding ingredients as they’re needed. Allowing the flavors to sing their solos before they sing their chorus. Holy shit – did that analogy make sense?
Sure, it’s easy to just plop all the ingredients into a pan and boil away. But your end result will be just as muddled and brash as you started. Trust me, when you take the time to show the ingredients some love, they show you some love right back.
Now, it’s important to note that I’ve slightly adjusted your traditional paella recipe to be appropriate for meal prep, and for the everyday home cook. I’ve purposely left out hard to find, or downright expensive ingredients, for the sake of practicality – will you ever use that $10 jar of saffron threads again? Or will you constantly make risotto night after night with some paella or arborio rice? I’ve left the saffron out and used brown basmati rice because that’s what I had on hand – feel free to stick with Spanish tradition if you think that’s blasphemy.
1/2 lb. cleaned squid, cut into rings and tentacles halved
6 sea scallops
1 lb. mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 campari tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and julienned
1 lb. snap peas, trimmed
1 onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups brown rice
4-6 cups shrimp, fish or chicken stock
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
1/2 cup white wine
juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
Half of the battle with this recipe is simple prepping the ingredients. Once all of the above is prepped, the recipe comes together rather quickly.
Heat a saute pan under medium high heat. Spray with non-stick spray and saute squid for about 1-2 minutes, or until they stiffen. Set aside.
In same pan, saute scallops for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Cut into halves or quarters and set aside.
Again, in the same pan, adding more non-stick spray as needed, saute the shrimp for about 1-2 minutes per side. “We want C’s, not circles.” Just a little visual mantra for how to tell when your shrimp is done/you’ve overcooked them. Set shrimp aside.
Lastly, add 1 cup of shrimp stock to your pan to deglaze. Add mussels and cover. Steam for about 2-3 minutes, or until all mussels open. Strain from liquid and set mussels aside with your other seafood items.
To make the rice:
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Heat a large, shallow, oven-proof skillet or pan under medium high heat. Spray with non-stick spray and add onion. Cook until starting to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook about 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and stir until coated, about 1-2 minutes.
Add about 3 cups of stock, paprika, and white wine to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook until the rice has absorbed 85% of the liquid. You want to make sure your rice is almost al dente. If not, you’ll want to add more stock, 1/2 cup at a time. This can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes depending on your heat variables and rice. You’ll also want to turn the pan a little every few minutes so that the rice around the edges of the pan cooks evenly. Resist the urge to stir the rice or you’ll end up with gummy porridge.
Traditionally, the seafood is cooked with the rice. However, because macros (duh) – I’ve already cooked all of the seafood separately as stated above. If you want to go the traditional route, feel free to add all of the raw seafood to the rice prior to finishing in the oven.
Once you’re at al dente, top rice with roasted red pepper slices and snap peas. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. If you’ve done it right, which I hope you have, you’ll get those perfect crispy bites of rice at the bottom of the pan.
It’s obviously not something you’d want to make every week for meal prep, but it’s certainly a well-deserved treat yo’ self every once in a while.