When making a dish to share, there’s nothing simpler than a hearty paella. The beauty of paella is that just a few choice ingredients come together to create a significant serving of food with serious “WOW!” factor that’s much easier to make than it seems.
Guests are impressed, and after doing just a bit of chopping, you’re able to create a colorful, seafood-rich entrée to feed a crowd that’s still healthful while feeling festive.
The recipe below is flexible enough to take advantage of whatever seafood you happen to have in the freezer. When I make paella at home, I don’t always use such a wide variety of seafood.
However, when entertaining, by combining two to three different items, you create a bounty that appeals to a wide variety of palates! This combination of chorizo, halibut, mussels and spot prawns, which I made for a dear friend’s birthday party, delivers a little something for everyone.
It’s common to see a simple blend of onions, tomatoes and peas to flavor the paella. To make this dish a bit more unique, I instead used a combination of baby lima beans, green olives and lemon zest. The final flavor was dynamic and fairly faithful to Spanish cuisine, from which paella originates.
Feel free to improvise with the vegetables, seafood and even liquids – I used half chicken broth and half white wine.
And finally, yes, saffron is expensive. But you will be amazed at how much flavor it can lend to a huge dish of rice and seafood. It’s worth every penny and really imbues paella with its distinctive flavor.
Prawn and Mussel Paella for a Crowd
Serves 4-6 as a main course; 10-15 as an appetizer
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ lb. Spanish chorizo
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cups Arborio rice
Pinch of saffron
4 cups liquid (combination of chicken broth and/or white wine)
1 pound frozen blue Pacific mussels
2 6-ounce portions boneless, skinless wild Alaskan halibut, cut into 1½-inch chunks
12- to 16-ounces spot prawns
½ cup frozen baby lima beans
1 cup green olives, pitted
Zest of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
Instead of thawing the seafood overnight in the refrigerator, I like to quick-thaw it right before I make the paella.
Remove the mussels and prawns from their package into a large colander, then quickly rinse in cold water just enough to dissolve the bits of ice.
For the halibut, place the portions in their packaging in a dish of cold water for 10 minutes, or until the fish is just soft enough to slice.
Once all of your ingredients are prepped and ready, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, shallow paella pan or sauté pan.
Add chorizo. Cook, breaking up into small chunks, until it’s cooked through and browned, 8-10 minutes.
Add onion and bell pepper and cook until soft, 5-6 minutes. While the onions and peppers sauté, heat the liquid in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until warm.
Add the rice and saffron to the pan and stir until the rice is shiny. Pour in the warm liquid and stir until combined, then layer in the seafood.
Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer 10 minutes, undisturbed. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, add the lima beans, olives and lemon zest, stirring just once, and season with salt and pepper.
Cook an additional 10 minutes. The paella is done once the rice is just tender and has absorbed most or all of the liquid.
If you’re lucky, the very bottom layer of rice will have caramelized onto the bottom of the pan, creating socarrat. If you’re sharing your paella with a crowd, let your guest of honor have first dibs on the socarrat – it’s delicious!
Adapted from content initially published by Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics.