A Taste of Spain

Spanish food is hard not to love. The tradition of tapas -- highly flavored appetizers and small plates to tempt your tastebuds -- is something that pairs beautifully with hot summer nights. But another traditional dish -- paella -- is really well-suited to the first kisses of spring. A richly-flavored baked rice dish that boasts onions, garlic, and sweet peas (all wonderfully fresh and widely available in spring) and a variety of protein options is like an elegant national casserole of sorts. It often involves chicken and chorizo, although my favorite variations focus on a variety of seafood.

With Easter just around the corner, markets all over are making a wide variety of seafood very affordable. That means it's seafood paella time for me! While you can actually use chunks of fish and shrimp, too, I like to make mine using scallops, mussels, and clams. Those are items that don't make it to my grocery list often, but they are fantastic, available, and affordable right now and the quality of fresh spring onions and garlic right about now makes seafood paella a great option this time of the year.

What's really wonderful about it is that, like other rice-based casseroles, it reheats very well, too! If you have leftovers on, say, a Friday night, you can enjoy a relaxing late lunch on a Saturday afternoon followed by a siesta. After all, the Spanish have a lot of great ideas, don't they?

Seafood Paella

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 1 7-ounce jar roasted sliced pimientos with juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
  • 2 cups bottled clam juice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound bay scallops
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1 dozen clams, scrubbed
  • 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • Lemon wedges and fresh parsley, for serving and garnish

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Heat the olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic to the skillet and saute until they are beginning to brown, scraping up any browned bits, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice, roasted pimientos with juices, and saffron. Add the clam juice and chicken stock to the skillet and bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Add the scallops and peas. Stir to combine evenly with the rice mixture. Add the clams and mussels, sinking them into the hot rice mixture. Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil.

Bake the paella until the rice is tender, about 40 minutes (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Remove the lid or foil from the skillet. Let the paella stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

  • Yields: 6 to 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

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