Rabbit and Seafood Paella
…If eating rabbit makes you blink, you can use chicken or duck or just use an array of seafood. I give you all the tips you need to make all combinations, so read on, and enjoy a taste of Spain…
Seriously…no one seems to have settled on a description on it shape, and it’s been referred to in copious cookbooks as variants of all 3. Who cares, and let’s just say it looks like ‘Arborio rice’ which is what the Italians use for risotto. But seriously people? Please, pleeeease, don’t use anything else except Bomba rice in your paella. If you can help it. Otherwise the Spanish Paella Police will look for you. And they will find you.
Thze Paella! Thze paella ith has orniuns! But no nuts! I wuntz’ wutched ha cookinge’ show, and thze chef (his notta chef I tell h’yoo!) his put thze nuts in thze paella! Horrrrrr….I wuzz sor mard I want to call the cooking’ sho anz tell thzem that h’yoo don’ put thze nuts in thze paella!
You th-tair the rayce wunth time honlly. Then, you donn th-thair thze raice! You leeeeve it alonn!
1) Invest in a ‘paellera’. They’re inexpensive and it will honour your cooking for life. A paellera is a round, wide and shallow in height and its sides are splayed. A good paella is a only a finger width in height, so you’ll notice that to feed more people, the paellera becomes wider in diameter, rather than the pot becoming deeper.
The paellera shouldn’t come with a lid-you won’t need one. It will have 2 handles and it’ll dip slightly in the middle so you can pool your sautéing ingredients at the beginning of the cooking process. You can pick one up from any good homeward store and in Perth, visit Rosa at Spanish Flavours on Oxford Street, Mt Hawthorn. She’ll tell you which pan will result in the best paella. Tell her ‘Lydia, the contestant on Masterchef Australia’ sent you.
2) Use the right rice. Calasparra rice is traditional, but any brand of ‘bomba ‘ rice is equally authentic. Both grains will absorb the stock well and its structure allows it to retain its integrity during cooking. The rice should be dry and separate when done, not creamy like a risotto.
3) A gas, open flame, charcoal grill or wood fire is what your paella will love. As long as you can diffuse the heat, you’ll be right. This means you may need more than one burner on at the same time if your paellera is a family sized one. Just regulate the gas so that the heat is evenly distributed. I have a 5 burner gas cooktop and I turn 3 burners on (my paellera is massive). Just remember to keep spinning the pan around regularly, to distribute the heat…otherwise you paella will, simply and straight forwardly put- burn to smithereens.
Get your sofrito right, baby.
4) This sofrito (meaning ‘to fry lightly’ in Spanish) will be the quintessential flavour base for your paella. This sautéed array of aromatics vary in ingredients from region to region…but pleeees! No nuts! It typically includes onion, garlic and tomato +/- paprika capsicum (red peppers), pre-soaked dried sweet red pepper (or achiote peppers) and/or herbs. It’s pretty simple…over a medium heat, fry the onion, then garlic, add peppers…let the flavours marry…add tomatoes…reduce over low heat until you arrive at a thick consistency; enough to hold its shape on a fork. Now you have your essential ‘sofrito’. HOLA!
5) The stock. If you don’t have any home made stock available, use a premium quality no-salt stock, warmed prior to using and infused with saffron. The saffron will give it that special aroma and golden colour that intensifies the flavour of the almighty sacred socarrat. If using shellfish, keep the heads on the prawns-there’s heaps of free flavour in the shells.
6) Keep your ingredients simple. Paella was originally a peasant dish which used whatever was at hand which was often not a lot. Broad beans, flat beans, artichoke…peas. Whatever you like, but keep it simple. Same with the meat…choose what you like, but don’t overcrowd your paellera otherwise your paella will cry.
I’ve used rabbit in this paella, but you can substitute it with chicken or duck if you like. Legs work well as do thighs. I find chicken breast dries out and anything on the bone is a winner. Remember…bones= free flavour.
3 cups Bomba or Calasparra rice
8 cups chicken stock
4 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red capsicum, oven roasted and peeled (substitute for achiote)
1 tbs sweet paprika
10-15 green beans (or flat beans)
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup tomato paste
12 Tiger prawns (or similar)
500gr combination of clams, squid and/or mussels (see tips below)
1 kg rabbit, cut into small pieces, or chicken thighs/legs if using
4 links chorizo sausage
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp saffron (or a good pinch)
3 lemons, cut into cheeks
1) Prepare all your ingredients prior to the cooking process.
2) Prepare the rabbit by cutting into 1/8th pieces. Your butcher can do this for you.
3) On low heat, warm the stock and add rosemary, thyme and saffron. Keep warm until ready to add it to the paella.
4) Heat paellera on cooktop and coat the bottom with olive oil.
5) Add chorizo and brown over high heat for 1-2 minutes. Remove before chorizo is fully cooked. Set aside.
6) Brown the Rabbit for 2-3 minutes. It should not be fully cooked. Set aside.
7) In the same paellera, add onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and capsicum and cook until softened.
8) Add the Roma tomatoes and push to one side of the pan (see picture below on how to dice quickly). On the other side add your tomato paste and continue spreading it around the base of the pan to heat and caramelise.
9) Add the beans, rabbit (or chicken/duck) to the pan. Add the paprika, parsley and thyme and stir well.
10) Now the good bit. Rain the rice into the pan, stirring the contents of the pan for about 1-2 minutes as the rice browns and has just started to become translucent. At this point, gently add the stock to cover the mixture. Stir the stock into the mixture…ONCE.
11) This is where the Spaniards will get upset if you don’t listen. Lower the heat to a low medium, keeping the paella at a gentle boil. You MUST leave the paella alone now, otherwise you’ll end up with a creamy risotto and not the distinguished nuttiness of the bomba rice creating the paella and the glorious socarrat.
12) Allow it cook for 15-20 minutes, half turning the pan occasionally, so that it cooks evenly over your cooktop burners. Don’t worry so much about rice sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remember this will form the socarrat and will be delicious. If you are concerned however, you can ”bash the living sh*t out of the pan” much like I did with my Peter Gilmore 8 Textured Cake on Masterchef! No…seriously folks…only tap it once-to loosen it. And only in an emergency (Rosa taught me this!)
13) At 6-8 minutes before your rice is ready, lay the prawns on top of the paella, turning them about 4 minutes to cook on the opposite side.
14) The rice should still be a little firm (al dente) on top but you must take the paella off the heat….cover it with aluminium foil (I also place a thick towel on top) and let the whole paella baby sit for 15-20 minutes.
15) Patience is the key here so don’t take a sneak peak or look at it again…for 20 minutes. I promise you…you’ll be glad you waited.
*Some Spaniards would balk at this information and argue that the calderon is a misused term to describe a similar dish to the paella, called Caldero- made purely of fish stock and bomba rice, made on the beaches of Spain. For a clear definitive line between the two, you can read this.
* To dice tomatoes quickly…cut the stem end off your tomato…with a knife, cut into the tomato towards the bottom but without cutting through. Repeat this in equal widths, choosing the width of your slices depending on how small or large you would like your tomato diced. When you’re done (usually after 3-4 cuts) turnt he tomato 45 degrees and repeat with the cuts. Lay the tomato on its side now, and dice away! Easy!
*If using calamari or squid, it can be cubed or cut into rings. You would add this after step 9.
*If using shellfish, add it with the prawns. It’ll taste better with the shells left on…
*If using meat, try keeping the bone in…it really does give you extra ‘free’ flavour that you simply loose when it’s boneless.