Less-fuss Paella arrives in time for summer
City Kitchen: Spain's classic version of picnic food, paella, can be simple and satisfying even when made with relatively few ingredients. Recipe: Paella with Shrimp and Fava Beans
The New York Times
Paella is considered picnic food — a one-dish meal prepared over a fire at an outdoor party like our hamburger cookout. It is also cooked indoors, but always in a flat steel paellera or in an earthenware cazuela. The main rules are to cook the rice uncovered and, unlike risotto, not to stir once the simmering has begun.
It comes in so many variations; if you want to learn more about the process, consider the works of Penelope Casas, a wonderful cook and author who has written prolifically about Spanish cuisine, or Marimar Torres, whose cooking talents are well known at her famous California winery. And chef Seamus Mullen has revealed his method for paella on a New York rooftop in his new book.
But sometimes the simplest paellas can be the most satisfying. Consider this week's recipe as a sort of primer for an easy home-cooked stovetop and oven version. That's not to say some of the prep work isn't a bit time consuming, but the actual active cooking time is more or less a breeze.
The ingredients are relatively few: onion, chorizo, garlic, shrimp and fava beans, plus a little saffron and smoky pimenton, the spicy Spanish paprika. If you can't get fresh fava beans (or don't want to deal with peeling them), you can substitute peas or even frozen baby limas. To achieve a truly authentic taste, try to find imported chorizo and Bomba rice. As for the shrimp, choose fresh wild, preferably medium size. I recommend peeling and deveining the shrimp, then using the shrimp shells to make the cooking broth. You could also leave the shrimp unpeeled and use chicken broth instead.
Most paella cooks I know agree that it's important to take great care with the initial cooking of the aromatic base known as sofrito, which often contains tomato and peppers. For this recipe, though, it means simply stewing an onion and chorizo mixture very slowly in olive oil to concentrate the flavor. Once the rice goes into the pan and the liquid is added, an easy technique to employ is the 10-10-10. That's 10 minutes over a high flame, then 10 minutes over a medium flame (or in the oven) and 10 minutes resting, lightly covered with a clean towel. The paella needn't be served piping hot, just warm.
The usual condiment is a good dab of allioli, a thick garlicky sauce similar to the French aioli. Though nowadays most people make it like mayonnaise, using egg yolks, real purists insist on an emulsion of nothing but garlic, salt and olive oil, pounded in a mortar. That takes practice and a little luck. Or a Spanish grandmother.
PAELLA WITH SHRIMP AND FAVA BEANS
Time: about 1 ½ hours
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
2 pounds of medium shrimp in the shell, preferably wild
1 small onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 large thyme sprig
Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoons pimenton (spicy smoked paprika)
1 large onion, diced small, about 2 cups
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, diced small
½ teaspoon crumbled saffron
2 cups short grain rice, preferably Bomba
3 cups shucked and peeled fava beans, from about 4 pounds of pods, or substitute fresh peas or frozen baby limas
4 ½ cups hot shrimp broth (method follows) or chicken broth.
1. Peel and devein shrimp. Reserve shells.
2. Make the shrimp broth: In a medium-sized pot put the shrimp shells, sliced onion, sliced garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprig and 1 teaspoon salt. Add 7 cups water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, then strain. Taste and adjust for salt; the broth needs to be well seasoned. Yield should be about 5 cups. Reheat just before using.
3. Rinse the shrimp briefly in a bowl of cool, lightly salted water, blot the shrimp with paper towels and put in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the minced garlic, ½ teaspoon pimenton, and a little salt. Mix well to coat with seasonings and let marinate at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.
4. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a 14-inch paella pan, earthenware cazuela or cast iron skillet, add 5 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp in one layer and cook very briefly, about 30 seconds per side. Remove shrimp and set aside. Add the diced onion and chorizo to the pan along with a pinch of salt. Let the mixture cook in the oil, stirring frequently, until well softened and barely colored, about 15 minutes. Add the saffron and remaining ½ teaspoon pimenton and cook for a few minutes more.
5. Add the rice and raise the heat to medium high. Stir well to coat with the onion mixture. Add the fava beans and season with salt and pepper. Add 4 ½ cups hot shrimp broth and bring to a brisk simmer, stirring once or twice only to distribute the beans. Taste broth and adjust seasoning if necessary. Simmer, uncovered, until most of the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and arrange the par-cooked shrimp over the surface in one layer.
6. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cover with a clean dish towel. Let the rice rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with homemade garlic mayonnaise or allioli if desired.