For me paella meant going back to my childhood, with my parents in Mallorca. We spent some weeks visiting friends there, who used to live in Belgium. Madeleine, the host always prepped the paella for the whole family, and I could watch, from getting the freshest crustaceans and fish from the local harbour, to listening to the paella forming the 'soccarat', the burnt crust that develops when it's done. In this recipe I'll show you how it's done, and how to get the rice cooked evenly without burning.
I take half of the garlic and blend it with either some parsley leaves, or some 'persillade' (dried parsley, salt, dried garlic), and some olive oil. Blend until everything becomes very smooth. I use this oil to fry lots of things, mostly fish.
We'll use this to fry our main ingredients instead of plain olive oil.
First turn on the gas to high heat, the bigger the flame and gas the better. Leave the pan on it for a while. In the meantime make sure all your products are pat dry. Now add some oil, not too much, a spoon or two three to the pan. Leave it again for a while until it starts to smoke. Now add the diced squid and scampi. Make sure they have a bit of a crust.
In the meantime, take a low frying pan with a lid. Put some olive oil on high heat, until it starts to smoke, then add the cockles, some black pepper and close the lid. When they're opening up, add some white wine and maybe some lemon juice. Remove from the stove and transfer into another recipient (including the juice!). Some people like to add other seashells like clams, palourdes (like the Italian vongole), etc. I prefer these small ones, they will be filled with rice when you'll serve the dish.
Same as before : but leave the oil from the first fry in the pan. Now add some extra oil, not too much, a spoon or two to the pan. Leave it again for a while until it starts to smoke. Now add the gamba's. Make sure they have a bit of a crust. Ass some salt and black pepper and some cayenne. When they're done, squeeze some lemon juice on them. When you cut open their carapace, you could also first marinate them in some olive oil, minced garlic, salt and papper, cayenne and some lemon juice before frying them so they will have more taste.
I've taken an 8-10 person paella pan. Because I don't fill her up to the edges, this one will fit 6-8 people. We now start frying the diced onions and bell peppers. When they start to sweat, you can add the canned chopped tomatoes - I use finissima - and turn up the heat again. Some use soffrito instead of chopped tomatoes but I prefer the neutral taste instead of strong garlicky paste. Soffrito = browned onion + garlic, then tomato paste is added, maybe some thyme, laurel, rosemary, and left to reduce until it becomes a strong tomato paste. Turn down the heat again.
FOODSECRET : Frying the rice and adding the Casero De Pescado.
Again remove everything from the pan. Add regular olive oil, a spoon or 10, and fry the rice for a few minutes. It will turn a bit glassy. I usually start off with 100g per person, but I will add some more later on. We now add all our ingredients to the pan, and start adding the heated stock. Now if you want to use your own fish or crustacean stock, fine, but you won't get far in ending up with a creamy velvety paella... Casero De Pescado, is made of fish, some vegetables and crustacean carapaces and has been cooked for over 4 to 5 hours. There is some sediment in the stock, so when the liquid evaporates, and this mixes with the olive oil in the rice, you will get the perfect creamy rice, and 'soccarat', the brown slowly burnt effect that distinguishes a good paella from a very good one. Put everything on high heat and mix well with a spatula. We want the rice to enter the bivalves. In the meantime preheat the oven to 160°. Now add a pinch of saffron powder and yellow food colouring to the liquid. Try it and add to your own taste. Make sure it's 'yellowy' enough by adding the colouring, not the saffron, as the latter is very strong in taste. You can add cayenne to taste, but no salt! the stock will reduce and become more salty! Normally I also add mussels but since it's not the season I left them out. IF you have mussels, cook them quickly with some butter, celery and onion, and keep the juice. I'll make you the best gamba's a l'ajillo, scampi a l'ail or shrimps with garlick stock. check it out here.
If you need to add more rice, please do so, I usually end up with 120g per person. No we let it simmer for 10 mins on low heat. Keep adding stock and use the spatula to mix until some of the rice starts to double in size. It's now time to finish the paella in the oven. This way we will also get a crust on top of the pealla. You could finish on the stove too, but I like the bottom part to be soggy, and the top part to be burnt a bit.
Now taste the rice, it needs to be a bit 'al dente'. Now remove the pan from the oven and cover with aluminum foil (in Spain they do it with old newspapers...). Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes. Remember, the rice will keep absorbing liquid so do remove it early enough from the oven. Now it's time to garnish the paella with lemons, some gamba's we have kept aside and some cockels. I also add .....
If you're making a paella Valenciana, with chicken, rabbit etc, you can use the Casero de Pollo instead.