Thursday, October 6, 2011
This weekend, my friend and I were supposed to go apple picking, but the weather simply did not cooperate! It was cold (in the 40s!) and rainy, just awful. Apple season is early and short down in DC which means we might never get to go now, big bummer.
Instead of letting the weather get us down, we decided to get the best ingredients we could find and make paella. Her mom gave her a nice big paella pan - although after it was all made it ended up being smaller than we expected - and she had a cookbook and a recipe in mind. We set to work scoping out the best place for all of our ingredients.
For the vegetables (onions, bell peppers) we went to the Mount Pleasant farmer's market. For the seafood, we drove all the way down to Southeast DC to visit our favorite place, the Maine Avenue Fish Market. Now I can't say for sure that the quality there is better than the supermarket (it's not like they're pulling fish out of the Potomac, or at least I hope not, but the selection is the best in the District and the fish never smells like it isn't fresh.
The prices are reasonable as well for most things, although shrimp were fairly expensive (even though they had endless varieties!). I was able to get my fish carcass there for $1 - a nice salmon head, fins, tail and bones. My friend thought I was kidding when I suggested we get it, but I most certainly was not! Making the homemade fish stock was the most exciting part of the day (for better or for worse)!
Sorry, I had to re-post that one. I'm sticking by my Halloween excuse. I love it.
After the fish market, we hiked back up to Giant to get the rest of the groceries, and ended up stopping at World Market as well for saffron ($4.99 vs $19.99 at Giant - probably because it was from India not Spain). I have to admit the question I've gotten most when I tell people I made paella is "where'd you get the saffron?" I know it's always expensive, but are there quality differences as well? I thought the less expensive World Market saffron worked just fine!
When assembling I realized there was no way I was going to fit the rice and stock in the paella dish without major overflow. I halved the rice (and the stock, of course) and made these changes in the recipe below. I like my paella with lots of seafood and a little rice, so feel free to double it again if your pan is big enough. Just make sure you double both the stock AND the rice (should be a 2:1 ratio).
Overall, an awesome recipe and a very fun day. My friend and I are New England girls, so of course we love almost any seafood dish, but the Monkey Scientist loved it as well. It's loaded with filling seafood and the rice soaks up the flavor of everything. It was definitely missing a flavor element though, so next time I'd probably add a hot pepper or two (anything from jalapeno to habanero, depending on your tolerance for heat) when I add the onions. Maybe even some Old Bay, this is DC after all!
adapted slightly from Paella Paella
8 oz mussels
8 oz clams
5 tbsp olive oil
8 oz fish (use any white fish that is sturdy)
8 oz squid, sliced into rounds
2 small (or one large) onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 small red bell peppers, diced
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained then chopped
1 cup rice (any short grain)
2 cups fish stock
1/2 tsp saffron
salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined (save the shells!)
1. Scrub the mussels and clams thoroughly, removing all beards and barnacles. Soak in water to let any sand fall to the bottom of the bowl. Discard any that fail to close when tapped sharply. Set aside.
2. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a paella pan over medium heat. Add the fish and squid and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until they start to brown. Transfer to a plate.
3. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the paella pan and cook the onions, garlic, and peppers until tender and starting to brown. Mix in the tomatoes and continue to cook for another 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Add the fish, squid, and rice to the paella pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Stir in the fish stock, saffron, salt, and pepper, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Add the shrimp, mussels, and clams and continue to cook over low heat until all the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes depending on the type of rice. Discard any mussels or clams that have failed to open. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.