I craved the lusty sunshine aroma of saffron and of smoky pimentón. I had fresh peppers and flatleaf parsley, a nubile pink brandywine tomato and a bag of rice. I didn't have any bivalves around, and even though it's practically not a paella without mussels or clams (shit, some langostines would be nice, too), I did have some gorgeous trawl-caught wild gulf prawns*, some California (true) cod and some smoked Columbia River sturgeon (compliments of my dad, the intrepid sportsman). Paella was definitely on the menu.
*Pardon the distance from my table! I'm trying to be better about at least sticking to my coast when sourcing my protein and produce, but sometimes I fold a little. At least they're not farmed. Baby steps!
Such a basic dish, if you keep things like smoked paprika and saffron in your kitchen! You don't even need a paella pan (I need one more piece specialtyware like I need a hole in the head), although without one I will never achieve that golden crust prized by my Spanish countrywomen (right, Núria?). Come to think of it, I don't have a crockpot, so that means I can have a paella pan (and what the hell, throw in a nice tagine for good measure), right?
Dice up some bell pepper (red, yellow or orange; I think green is too strong-tasting), onion, garlic and tomato. Heat olive oil in the a pan and add the vegetables (except the tomato). Fry for a minute, then add the rice and paprika. Stir-fry the rice for a few minutes, then add a splash of white wine and some chicken or fish stock. Add a bay leaf, a pinch of red chili flake and a pinch of saffron threads, then stir and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is done, then take off the lid, stir in the seafood, salt and pepper, tomatoes and chopped parsley, and stick the whole thing in a hot oven until the top of the rice gets a little browned and crispy. Top with more chopped parsley.
For Jube and Norm (and other oenophiles) - I paired this with a Domaine Labbé Vin de Savoie Abymes 2006. (Yes, it was displayed directly beneath the seafood case, else I'd never thunkit.) The minerality tapers off the juicy fruit notes, while quelling the acidity a bit. It complemented the floral saffron and sweet tomatoes in the paella perfectly, and cut right through the rich starch and seafood. Even though I don't usually think about wine, I at least know what it tastes like!