Every other Monday night Lady and I stay in, so this week instead of a restaurant review I have a probably-more-exciting synopsis of my attempt at pescatarian-friendly paella. I've never made paella before, and was mainly excited that I finally had an excuse to purchase saffron. Saffron is one of those foods that should be given as a gift (along with, in my opinion, organic mangoes, avocados, chestnuts, truffles--chocolate or more preferably fungal, whole nutmeg pods, really incredible coffee, really bitter chocolate, marcona almonds, and anything grown in a windowsill or backyard).
I started with this recipe but tweaked it quite a bit and came up with something closer to this:
1 bag Trader Joe's frozen seafood blend (16 oz of shrimp, calamari rings, and scallops)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1+ tsp sweet paprika
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
4 + 2 +1 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1 1/4 cup frozen green peas
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 vegan sausage (I used Italian-style because I like the sun-dried tomatoes in this)
16 littleneck clams
1 can artichoke hearts, halved, liquid reserved
3+ cups vegetable stock simmered with 1 tsp saffron threads
1 1/4 cup beer (I used an IPA; a saison or pale ale would also do nicely)
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large paella pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add seafood blend (not defrosted); saute 3-5 minutes with 2 cloves garlic, cayenne, and paprika (the seafood mixture will not be cooked through). Set aside, reserving liquid.
Add onion and bell pepper to pan, and saute 5 minutes. Add the remaining cayenne and paprika, crushed red pepper, and 3 garlic cloves; cook 5 minutes. Add rice and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, beer, seafood liquid, parsley, 4 cloves garlic, half the lemon juice, and peas. Bring to a low boil and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
In a separate pan, brown sausage in a bit of oil, adding drained artichoke hearts, 1 clove garlic, and a bit of paprika near the end of cooking time.
Add clams to paella pan, nestling into rice mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until shells open; discard any unopened shells. Stir in the seafood and the sausage mixture. Add more liquid (from artichokes or extra broth) as necessary until rice is tender. Sprinkle with lemon juice (or rice vinegar), fresh parsley, salt (we used Tony Chacery's, but that's for another post), and plenty of cracked black pepper. Remove from heat; cover with a towel and let stand 10 minutes.
We were going to pair a crisp Spanish white or even a tempranillo blend with our paella, but really we both love beer and that makes more sense to my palate anyways. I deliberated between saisons and tripels in the grocery store, but ended up with North Coast Brewery's Le Merle. This is a truly excellent California saison, with just enough spice and hops to stand up to our flavorful meal, but still light enough that you would never guess it rings in at 7.9% ABV.
Next conquest: gluten-free vegan pizza. That tastes good. I know I've got you on the edge of your seat...