Winter Dinner Parties at Home: Part 1
A paella party.
Winter is a great time to entertain at home, and paella is a meal that will make everyone happy. You can tailor the ingredients to suit everyone’s palate and still have time to visit with your guests. Best of all, the ingredients can easily be found right here in Lexington.
Paella is a fabulous one-dish meal. There are many varieties, but they all start with a ”sofrito” of garlic, onions, peppers and tomatoes slow cooked in olive oil and added to a fat, short-grain rice, such as Arborio.
Toppings can be luscious seafood, juicy chicken or spicy sausage. I buy my shellfish at Stop & Shop on Bedford Street and always ask for the mussels and clams “from out back” so they are as fresh as possible. I also ask them to steam the lobsters in the store (it’s a free service!) and it saves me the work and cleanup of prepping the lobsters.
Before cooking the mussels, discard any that do not close up after being tapped on the counter. Scrub clams really well to make sure there will be no sand in your finished dish.
One paella will easily serve 12 people. If you are having a very large party, it’s nice to offer your guests a couple of different kinds of paella. I like to offer homemade sangria (recipes for my great sangrias to come in another column here on Lexington Patch), Champagne or sparkling Spanish wine, called cava, alongside the paella.
Cava is really the perfect match for this and a very reasonably-priced sparkler. You can find it at Busa Wine & Spirits; they have a great selection of sparkling wines. Cheers!
ROSEANN’S SEAFOOD PAELLA
- 1/2 pound green beans, cut in half
- 2 quarts homemade lobster stock OR 1 quart clam juice diluted with 1 quart water, plus extra water if needed
- 1 pound raw jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined, tails left on
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- 3 cups Arborio rice
- 2 pounds clams, soaked in water for 2 minutes, then removed
- 1 pound mussels, scrubbed
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 3 cooked lobster tails, shells on, cut in half lengthwise and then in half crosswise to make 12 pieces
1. Place some ice cubes in a large bowl, add cold water and set aside. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and plunge asparagus or green beans into ice water bath to stop cooking. Drain again and set aside.
2. In a large stockpot, bring stock or diluted clam broth to boil. Add shrimp and cook until barely pink, about 2 minutes. Remove shrimp and set aside. Crush saffron threads in palm of your hand and add to broth. Add paprika to broth. Reduce heat to low and keep broth simmering on stove.
3. Heat an 18-inch or larger paella pan (or large high-sided frying pan) over medium heat. Add olive oil and crushed garlic cloves and cook until garlic becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.
4. Reduce heat to low. Add onions, peppers and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Add rice and stir. Add warm broth in 1-cup increments and cook until broth is absorbed, then add another cup of liquid. Repeat until rice is tender but still quite firm. Add one final cup of broth (or water if no more broth remains). Add clams and cover pot. Cook 7 to 12 minutes or until shells begin to open.
6. Add mussels, cover and cook an additional 5 minutes. At this point all shellfish should have opened; discard any that have not.
7. Add peas, asparagus or green beans. Stir rice gently, scooping from bottom of pan to top. Turn off heat.
8. Add lobster tails. Let paella rest on top of stove for 10 minutes, covered, then serve.