Paella is a “rustic Spanish dish of rice, vegetables, sausages, poultry, fish, and shellfish seasoned with saffron,” according to “Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Art.” It is to the country of Spain what bouillabaisse is to the country of France. Both have a long history that began as simple peasant food on the shores of the Mediterranean, using the ingredients at hand.
Paella must contain rice and saffron, along with onions, garlic and olive oil. I have found that being authentic (whatever that means) is not as important as being good when trying to recreate some of these classics. Just as in ancient times, what matters is the freshness of the ingredients.
In the following recipe I have purchased all local ingredients where possible and combined them in a fashion that captures the authentic flavors and appearance of this famous dish. It is the perfect dish to enjoy with friends on the deck in the summer. Enjoy.
North Fork Paella
Purchase a local 4-pound chicken and a pound of fresh local chorizo sausage. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces, reserving the backbone and any other bones. Bone out the breasts and cut them into 8 equal pieces, leaving the skin on.
Place the bones in a small stock pot and cover with cold water. Add half an onion, 1 stalk of celery and a carrot. Season with a bay leaf, 12 peppercorns and 2 sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. Strain and set aside.
Cut the sausage into 1-inch pieces. Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Brown the chicken pieces skin side down at high heat, turn and cook another 5 minutes before removing to a casserole.
In the same pan, brown the sausage and remove to a small casserole. De-glaze the pan with a little of the chicken stock and add the drippings back to the stock. While the stock is still hot, add 1/4 teaspoon saffron and 1 teaspoon turmeric. You will have about 4 cups of stock.
Place the chicken and the sausage in a 350-degree oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove and set aside. (This part of the recipe can be done ahead.)
Purchase a 1 1/4-pound lobster, 1/2 pound of sea scallops, a dozen little-necks and 1 pound of mussels. Split the lobster and discard the head sac. Break off the claws and set aside.
Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the split lobster shell side down and cook at high heat until it turns bright red. Remove and add the scallops to the same pan. Cook them quickly and remove.
Deglaze the pan with 1 cup white wine, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add this liquid to the above chicken stock and set aside.
Bring 1 quart water to a boil and add the lobster claws, letting them simmer for 10 minutes. Cool them under cold water. Remove the meat and set aside. Reserve the simmering lobster water.
Heat a large, shallow saucepan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped green onions, 4 garlic cloves, sliced, and 1 1/2 cups short-grain rice (Arborio or Spanish rice). Add the stock from above, cover and simmer until the rice is almost tender. Add the chicken pieces, the sausage, 1/2 cup each of chopped green and red pepper, and 1 chopped fresh tomato. Continue cooking on low heat.
Cut the lobster tails into pieces and add them to the rice mixture along with the lobster claw meat. Stir 1 package of frozen peas (or blanched fresh green beans) into the mixture and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Season with coarse salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the reserved lobster water to a boil and add the clams and mussels. Cook at high heat until they begin to open, removing them with tongs as they open.
Place the cooked paella on a large platter and line the sides with the clams and mussels. Garnish the platter with lemon wedges and chopped fresh basil.