Last August I wrote a column about the famous Spanish dish paella and how it can be adapted to North Fork ingredients. In that recipe I simmered the ingredients on the stove and finished them in the oven. Today I am revisiting paella and cooking it entirely outside on the grill.
According to an article in the classic Time-Life Books series, “The Cooking of Spain and Portugal” (1969): “The first paellas were cooked out-of-doors over open fires, and some paella buffs maintain that this is still the best way to cook them. Many Spanish picnickers plan a paella cookout as the main feature of their outings, taking along the ingredients and building their fire with whatever is handy.”
The paella, like the tagine, gets its name from the pan it is cooked in. The unusual combination of meat, poultry and seafood varies widely, but olive oil, rice and saffron are always used. In the following recipe I have tried to streamline the preparation and cook it entirely on the outdoor grill. It makes a perfect July meal on the North Fork.
(grilled version to serve 4-6)
Assemble the following on skewers: 2 chicken breasts, cut in 2-inch squares; 3/4 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined; 3/4 pound fresh sea scallops; 1 pound Italian sweet sausage.
Brush the skewers with oil, season with salt and pepper and grill over hot coals.
Place a saucepan on the grill and add 1 cup white wine. Add to this 1 pound of mussels. Cover and cook until mussels open.
Remove the mussels and add 1 dozen littleneck clams. Cover and cook until they open, and remove.
Strain the liquid and add chicken stock to make 4 cups.
Crush 1/4 teaspoon saffron and add to the broth. Stir in 1 teaspoon turmeric.
Place a large sauté pan (or a paella pan) on the grill and add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in 1 bunch of chopped scallions, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 1 1/2 cups Spanish rice (or Italian arborio rice). Cover and cook until rice is just tender, about 20 minutes.
Fold in the cooked chicken, sausage, shrimp and scallops. Add 1/2 cup minced red pepper, 1 cup fresh shucked (or frozen) peas and simmer another 10 minutes. Garnish with the mussels and clams along with some chopped cilantro.
Note: This version, although not authentic, is quick and produces a delicious combination of flavors.
(classic outdoor version to serve 8-10)
Prepare the following: four 6-ounce lobster tails cut into 2-inch sections; 1 pound (21-25) large shrimp peeled and de-veined; 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed; 1 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and rinsed; 2 pounds fresh chorizo sausage (or Italian sweet sausage), cut into thin rounds; two 2-pound Cornish game hens, cut into eighths and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Light the chargrill and wait until the coals turn white.
Place a large paella pan on the grid and add 1/4 cup olive oil. When hot, add the chicken pieces and brown on both sides, then remove. Add the lobster to the pan and cook until shells turn red, then remove. Add the sausage and cook until brown, then remove.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour off excess fat, removing any burnt pieces.
(a Spanish base for many dishes)
Place the pan back on the grill and add 1/4 cup olive oil. Place 1 cup diced fresh pork in the pan along with 1 cup chopped onion, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 red pepper cut into strips and 1 diced tomato. Continue cooking and stir in 3 cups Spanish rice (or arborio rice), 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes.
Bring 6 cups water to a boil and add 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron. Pour this liquid over the rice mixture and bring to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat.
Arrange the chicken, lobster, sausage, shrimp, clams and mussels in layers on top of the rice and scatter 1 cup of peas over all. Place back on the grill, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, or until rice is tender. Do not stir. Garnish with sliced lemon and chopped cilantro and serve.
Note: For this recipe I adapted the classic outdoor paella recipe “The Cooking of Spain and Portugal” by Peter S. Feibleman.
John Ross, chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. For contact information, go to his website, www.chefjohnross.com.