Between the ages of 4 and 8 I would only order one thing when I went out to eat at a restaurant. That one thing wasn't even an actual meal, it was shrimp cocktail. I'm not sure why I thought that was a sufficient meal at the time, but still today I find myself searching for meals that have shrimp. Luckily for me, and for all of you, I've found dishes that are at least slightly more interesting and complex than shrimp cocktail.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not always a firm believer that complex is better. And during this process, even though this was a recipe I picked, I found myself wondering...
What's wrong with Uncle Ben's? Does it actually matter if I get Valnecia or Bomba rice? Can a certain pan really be that necessary? And do I really need to spend 8 dollars on 30 strands of saffron? I am so frugal.
To put it simply, yes. Paella is only worth the indulgence, time, and cash money, when you do it right from start to finish to make sure you're fulfilling the complexities of the dish. It is hard to explain unless you've experienced, but trust me, it's worth it.
Yield - serves 6-8
30 threads saffron, crushed (a scant 1⁄2 tsp.)
10-12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium tomatoes, minced or grated on the largest holes of a box grater (discard the skin)
1 small onion, minced
7 cups chicken broth
2 1⁄2 cups short-grain rice, preferably Valencia or bomba
1 red pepper sliced into 1 inch strips
Put saffron and 1⁄4 cup hot water in a small bowl; let sit for 15 minutes. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 16″–18″ paella pan over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate, leaving meats in pan. Add paprika, garlic, tomatoes, and onions to pan and cook, stirring often, until onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add reserved saffron mixture and broth, season with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Sprinkle in rice, distribute evenly with a spoon, and add peppers. Cook, without stirring, until rice has absorbed most of the liquid, 12-15 minutes. (If your pan is larger than the burner, rotate it every two minutes so different parts are over the heat and the rice cooks evenly.) Reduce heat to low, add reserved shrimp, and nestle in clams hinge side down; cook, without stirring, until clams have opened and rice has absorbed the liquid and is al dente, 5–10 minutes more. Turn heat to high for 1-2 minutes to create the socarrat. Remove pan from heat, cover with aluminum foil, and let sit for 5 minutes before eating.