Thursday, September 12, 2013

Oven-Roasted Shrimp and Sausage Paella

The genuine article as seen in Spain
Paella is, hands down, the dish most associated with Spain.  Prior to the emergence of tapas on tables everywhere and Ferran Adria’s molecular gastronomy, I’d venture to say, it was the only food most people thought of when they thought of Spanish cooking. However, in that country, it’s a dish associated with one province: Valencia on the East Coast.  Valencian cooks regard it as one of the identifying symbols of their province.   It’s one of those dishes that has so many variations, it’s possible to call any dish made with short-grained Spanish rice a Paella.  This is particularly true since the word “Paella” actually refers to the pan the dish is cooked in.  From there, it gets even more complicated because Valencians use the word “Paella” for all pans, including the specialized shallow one used for cooking Paellas. Plus, there’s no master recipe for Paella. Every cook seems to have their own version and sticks rigidly to their family recipe as the only way to cook paella. Recently, we were having a dinner party for more guests than usual. Because of all I'd read about Paella, I felt I had permission to go with something of my own creation. I liberally borrowed from several recipes to end up with what made the dish popular in the first place:  Because it makes for a great party.
Spanish Short-Grained Rice 
The only absolute must for creating paella, is the use of short-grained traditional Spanish Rice.  There’s one called “Bomba” that gets many recommendations.  I could not find any Bomba rice out in my country supermarket.   Fortunately, one of the endless recipes I consulted, allowed as how Goya has a medium-grained rice that’s a great stand-in.  The rice is key to the dish.  Short-grained rice absorbs up to twice as much liquid as other varieties.  So when the rice is cooked, it still has a creamy interior even when it’s al dente.  The second and all important role of the rice is to create a bottom layer that is crisp, browned and, to some eyes, looks burned.  This is called “saccorat” and it’s the mark of a good paella maker.  The creation of this particular layer is a lazy man’s dream because it means after the rice goes in, the dish is never stirred.  But I had a bigger challenges on my hands: No Paella pan.  And while we have a grill, it’s not my favorite cooking device. I like to control the heat.  But in my recipe search, I found an ally in my quest to create paella: Larousse Gastronomique, the hefty bible of French Cuisine.

       The French, in true gallic fashion, never do anything the way anyone else does especially if it isn’t true to La Cuisine Francaise. The entry for Paella gives its history and broad ingredient list. Then, acknowledging that “Paella may be a rustic dish, cooked in the open air and eaten straight from the Paellera”, the recipe takes a decidedly un-rustic turn.  Initial preparation is all stove-top and when the rice is finally added, the dish goes into a hot oven—or in my case, laid on the bottom of one to create the “saccorat”—and finishes cooking with no grill in sight.   Now this is not a 30 minute dinner.  Far from it.  But strangely, it can be cooked in stages so you don’t feel that you’re a slave to the stove.  I was very proud of the results which got a thumbs from all twelve people who ate, myself included. I managed to create a decent “saccorat” and the rice was brimming with flavor.  There’s a lot of fluidity with the ingredients.  The version I ended up with featured, dozens of shrimp, two sausages – Andouille and cured chorizo.  I made a seafood stock of chicken stock, white wine and lobster shells. See note below if you're fresh out of lobster shells. 
I also availed myself of one recipe’s flavor booster which did just what it suggests.  And I also borrowed a New York Time’s recipe for a scallion relish that gets strewn across the top of the finished dish. It was heaven.  And here’s the recipe.
Recipe for Oven-Roasted Shrimp and Sausage Paella
Time 2 hours. Serves 12 – 16 people.
For the Paella:
9 cups chicken stock
OR 6 Cups of Chicken Stock
And 3 of Clam Juice*
4 cups dry white wine
* I had a guest with a clam allergy.  I added seafood flavor to the chicken and white wine mixture by adding lobster shells I had in the freezer.  Feel free to use the clam juice. 
4 pounds extra-large shrimp , peeled and deveined, tails intact.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds Andouille sausage, cut on the bias 1/4 inch thick.
1 pound cured chorizo in medium dice
2 cups small-dice onion, peels reserved
1/3 cup minced garlic
2 cups crushed tomatoes
4 cups bomba rice (or substitute other short-grained or Goya medium-grained rice)
1 12 oz package of frozen peas
3 roasted red peppers, peeled and cut into strips, for garnish 
For the flavor booster:
1 cup dry sherry
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon saffron threads

For the Scallion Relish:
2 cups (about 20) garlic scapes (or substitute scallions)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

1.Combine the chicken stock, white wine, clam juice, 1 cup water and lobster or shrimp shells in a large pot. Add any onion peelings or vegetable scraps left from preparation. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes, then strain, return the liquid to pot and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut red pepper into four pieces.  Put the peppers on a sheet pan.  Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Roast 15 minutes. Remove from oven. When red peppers are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off the peppers. Cut into strips and set aside.
3.While stock cooks, prepare the flavor booster. Heat the sherry in a small pan until it is just beginning to simmer, then remove from the heat. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well and set aside.

4. Prepare the relish. Brush the scallions with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill until just toasty, about 2 minutes a side. Remove from heat and chop roughly. Combine the scallions with the remaining olive oil, pine nuts and lemon zest, mix well, and set aside.

5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Remove the racks from the oven so that the roasting pan will fit on the floor of the oven.
6. Put 1/2 cup olive oil in roasting pan. Put over the fire and heat until hot but not smoking. Add the sausages and brown lightly on both sides, about 6 to 8 minutes total. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. 

7. Add the tomatoes and half the stock mixture, bring to simmer, then add the rice and the flavor booster. 

8. Stir well to combine, then smooth it out to an even layer (you should have just a layer of liquid between 1/4 and 1/2 inch on top) and allow to come back to a slow simmer on the stovetop.

9. Push the shrimp down into the simmering mixture so they are covered by the liquid, being careful not to stir the mixture. Add water or stock as needed to maintain that very thin visible layer for 20 minutes, but do not move the rice around.
10. After 20 minutes stop adding liquid and put the roasting pan on the floor of the oven for 20 minutes. The timing on this varies, so Check to see if your ‘saccorat’ is forming.  Once it does, add the peas carefully stirring them into the top of the dish.   Cook until rice is tender but not mushy, from 5 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven, lay peppers on top, spoon on the Scallion Relish and serve.


  1. It was delicious and a good dish to serve at a dinner party.

    1. Thanks Lauren! I am so glad you liked it and it was a pleasure to make it for you.