Paella is a dish that traces its roots to the historic Kingdom of Valencia in the present-day Valencian community in Spain. It derives its name from the Latin word patella which means ‘pan’. In Spain the meal is cooked traditionally in a round, shallow, wrought-iron pan. While paella can be made with different combinations of vegetables, pork, chicken, or seafood, its basic ingredient is rice.
It really doesn’t take a kitchen god to make paella. The recipe is flexible, which means you can even make paella from leftover food you have around the kitchen. Here’s how you can make easy leftover seafood paella:
1. Prepare your ingredients
Make sure that you have rice, which is paella’s primary ingredient. How about leftover seafood dishes like crab, shrimp, squid, or mussels? Having some tomatoes, bell pepper, leeks, or saffron will also help in making your paella more scrumptious.
2. Chop, chop, chop
If you have whole crab, chop the crab into manageable halves or quarters (this depends on the size of the crab). Slice squid crosswise so that you have perfect little squid rings. While you’re at the chopping board, you can also start chopping 3 cloves of garlic and a medium-sized onion. If you plan on using tomatoes, chop them radially or into quarters if they’re small. Thinly slice bell peppers, and snip off some green leaves off onion stalks. Set all these aside.
3. Boil your uncooked seafood
If you have uncooked seafood, put it all in a pot. This goes for crabs, mussels, and shrimp, but NOT for squid. Add about 3 cups of water, making sure that they’re all submerged. Pinch some salt and add to the mixture. Bring all this to a boil in medium heat, which may take about 5 minutes. Once the crab is cooked, you can remove it along with the other seafood. Remove shrimp skin and head, and add it to the remaining seafood stock in the pot. Let this stock simmer in low heat.
To create a seafood stock without uncooked seafood, use the skin of shrimp and any remaining fish bones that you may have. You can also use a shrimp broth cube added to 3 cups boiling water for the stock. This stock is crucial for this dish, as it will later enrich the seafood flavor of the paella.
4. Seafood sauté
Heat a shallow pan. Add about a teaspoon or two of cooking oil or olive oil. Simmer for about 30 seconds and then add the chopped garlic and onions. Add a pinch of salt, some ground pepper, about a teaspoon of saffron, and some paprika for flavor. Sauté the garlic and onions until the onions turn a light brown. Add the skinned shrimp and sliced squid, and sauté until they soak in the flavor. After they’re nice and tasty, remove the shrimp and squid (but keep the garlic and onions) and set aside. Add the sliced tomatoes and bell peppers to the pan. Sauté well.
5. Rice to the occasion
Add one and a half cups of rice grains to the pan. Sauté it with the tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic until the grains appear less opaque. Add the seafood stock to the pan. Make sure to pat the grains flat with the reverse side of a spatula so that the rice cooks evenly. Cover the pan and check that the stove is set at medium-to-high flame. Leave the rice to cook for around 10 minutes. At this point you should try to move the pan around the flame so that the heat is evenly distributed. To check if the rice is cooked, take a couple of grains from below the top layer and taste. It should have a soft but not tough texture.
This step is quite tricky because if you don’t get it right some of the rice will end up cooked while others are not. If you’re unsure of your pan-rice-cooking technique, you can boil the rice in the seafood stock separately in a pot or rice cooker. Right after it boils just transfer it to the pan and then sauté with the tomatoes, onion, and garlic.
6. All together now
When the rice is cooked, remove the cover and turn off the flame. Transfer the rice to a broad, rimmed, shallow dish. Arrange the crabs, shrimp, squid, and mussels on top. You can add the snipped onion leaves on top for extra garnish. Voila! You now have your leftover seafood paella.