Ah, Spain. España. Have you been there? I have not been to Spain, but it is definitely on my Travel Bucket List. The country is ancient and beautiful. I kinda *sorta* understand the language. The food looks amazing.
Since a trip to Spain is not in my near future, this dish is the closest I’ll get to it. Paella is widely considered the National Dish of Spain and originates from the Valencia region, along the Mediterranean coast. The main component of paella is rice, and you can make seafood paella, meat paella, mixed paella, vegetarian paella… you get the picture.
Around the 10th Century, the Spanish Moors began cultivating rice and the Valencian people would use that rice to make casseroles of rice, fish, and spices for family and religious feasts. By the 15th century, rice became a staple of Spanish cuisine. I read a quote from a Spanish food historian, Lourdes March, about paella that said, the dish “symbolizes the union and heritage of two important cultures, the Roman, which gives us the utensil and the Arab which brought us the basic food of humanity for centuries.”
I really loved that because that was sort of the whole point in my starting this blog. In a world that is as divided as today’s is, food is still so universal. Everyone loves food. Every culture has their own traditions. Most cultures even borrow from other cultures. We all sit down at the end of the day at the dinner table. The fact that paella has come to symbolize the unity of two cultures in Spain is beautiful.
From what research I’ve done, there are many ways to make this dish. You can even get a paella pan, but I just used a large skillet. This particular paella is shrimp and scallops because that’s what I had on hand, but I think doing a shrimp and chicken would be delicious.
A typical spice in paella is saffron. As you may know, this is the most expensive spice, by weight, in the world. The bonus is a little goes a long way. I found a small jar at Trader Joe’s that cost about $5 or $6, which is the cheapest I’ve seen for a jar. The one I saw at Pavilions was closer to $17.
The only problem I had with the recipe I used was that it made SO much rice! The rice to seafood ratio was so off. I would probably just make less rice next time. Otherwise, this recipe was delicious and I can’t wait to play around with this dish again and see what sort of delicious combinations I can come up with.
Shrimp and Scallop Paella
(recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking?)
¼ cup olive oil
4 shallots, minced (I used leeks because that’s what I had on hand)
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from the stem
2 bay leaves
2 pinches of saffron
3 cups long grain white rice
¾ cup white wine (I’m sure you could just use chicken broth)
2 tsp salt
6 cups chicken broth
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes because that’s what I had)
8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, split, and deveined
8 sea scallops, cleaned
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling
1 lemon juiced
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a large oven-proof skillet, add the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the thyme and the bay leaves and cook for a minute or two. Add the saffron and the rice and stir for a couple minutes until the rice is coated with the olive oil.
Add the wine, salt, and chicken stock, making sure the rice is evenly distributed in the pan. Raise the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Once it comes to a steady simmer, remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the tomatoes. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and add the shrimp and scallops. Put the pan back in the oven and cook for another 13 minutes until the seafood is cooked. This seemed like a very specific time, but I did exactly 13 minutes like the recipe called for and it came out perfect!
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley, drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice and serve.
I had no expectations for this dish, but it turned out really good! I can see why Spain claims it as their national dish!