As you know, we recently took a family vacation to New York. We planned the trip around the wedding of our close friends, Ed and Danielle. The wedding was at Danielle’s family home in Woodstock, and it was gorgeous! I could write forever about all the exciting details of the fun wedding — but, for now I’m focusing on one of my highlights of the trip — Silvia’s Seafood Paella!
At the wedding, Danielle’s mom invited all the guests to return to the house the following day to eat paella made by her dear friend Silvia. I was looking forward to this, of course, but I really had no idea just what a treat it would be!
Turns out, Silvia is from Toledo, Spain, and she’s a chef, caterer and cooking instructor! When we arrived at the house, I immediately spotted this enormous, shiny paella pan with its own special burner! While Silvia prepped inside, it was just sitting there, waiting for action.
As the onions and peppers began to sizzle in olive oil, the excitement mounted! After the vegetables softened a bit, creating an incredibly wonderful aroma, Silvia gracefully tossed in the mussels, followed by the clams and calamari. After the mussels and clams opened up, she removed them from them pan. (They were returned to the pan when the paella was almost finished.)
Now some tomato sauce (fried, I’m guessing — but we’ll have to check with Silvia)! The sauce was followed by stock. A very special homemade stock. I believe I heard Silvia say it was a lobster stock infused with saffron.
The rice was added sometime between the stock and the lobsters. I suspect it was Bomba rice, which is a Spanish short-grain rice that when cooked, expands in width, and is able to absorb three times its volume in liquid. I think I heard Silvia say she’d had it sent from Valencia, Spain! (Years ago I was lucky enough to have had paella in Valencia, and I must tell you Silvia’s was as good, if not better! Really, really delicious!)
While the paella was cooking, guests were swimming, laying around the pool, and drinking sangria. Then, after Silvia added the stock and just before she added the lobster, it began to rain — out of nowhere! No big deal, though. Someone quickly placed a big, yellow umbrella on a stand over Silvia, the pan, and all the prep. Here’s the view from under her umbrella. (I really wanted to give you a glimpse of just how beautiful this property is!)
During the few-hour-long-cooking-process, Silvia remained relaxed, beautiful, and full of energy. And after all of that cooking, she then served each and every one of us herself — around 50 guests! We all toasted Silvia and ate this oh-so-delicious paella!
I was too busy taking pictures and enjoying the “show” to ask too many questions about ingredients and measurements. I’m pretty certain that Silvia makes this paella by memory — it’s like second nature to her.
That said, I can’t very well leave you without a paella recipe! Below is my paella recipe. Silvia has inspired me to make it this very weekend! It’s a perfect weekend cooking project — a long and beautiful process. My favorite way to cook paella is outdoors on the BBQ. (Since I don’t have one of those super cool paella burners!) It also makes for such a fun party — everyone hangs around the BBQ watching, drinking, and chatting. I love it!
Valentina’s Paella Recipe
Serves approximately 16
Total Prep and Cooking Time : an entire weekend afternoon
Olive oil for the pan
1 (approximately 2-3/4 pound) chickens, cut up into 8 pieces each, skin-off, bone-in
2 pounds sliced Chorizo
1-1/2 cups finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
6 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon Sweet Paprika
1 teaspoon Saffron threads
5 cups Bomba rice
Approximately 4 quarts strong chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 cups, roughly chopped Piquillo peppers (Bajamar is great)
1-1/2 cup peas
1/2 pound green beans, steamed
4 dozen medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, with the tail on
3 dozen Mediterranean mussels, beards removed and cleaned
Coat a large paella pan (approximately 15-inches), with the olive oil. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for about a minute on each side, without browning. Pour about 1 quart of the stock over the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover with foil, and cook for approx. 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the chicken form the pan and place on a baking sheet to cool. Pour the stock from the pan into a bowl and save it for later. Once the chicken is cool enough to touch, remove the meat from the bones into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.
Over medium-high heat, add the chorizo to the paella pan and cook until it’s nicely browned. Remove it from the pan and set it aside.
Using a bit more olive oil if necessary, add the onions and garlic to the pan, and cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes, and add the paprika, saffron and rice, and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and immediately add the remaining stock, along with half of the sausage.
Cook until most, but not all, of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Then stir in the rest of the sausage, the chicken, peppers, peas, green beans, and shrimp. Continue to cook until the shrimp is pink, and the rice has absorbed just about all the stock and is aldente.
Finally, arrange the mussels around the edges of the paella pan and cover it with cheesecloth, gently tucking it into the rice along the sides. Continue to cook just until the mussels open.
It’s best to season the paella with salt and a bit of pepper as you work, because as the pan becomes more full with ingredients, it can become more difficult to stir.
Contact Silvia at Daylizious USA for her extraordinary catering/private chef services and cooking classes.
You will find every Spanish ingredient you need for paella — and much more — at the amazing Spanish market, La Español Meats. You can order online, but if you can make it there, it’ll be a fantastic culinary experience! I promise!