Daring Cooks #4 – Paella

by Jenn on August 14, 2009

in Dairy Free,Daring Kitchen,Dips and Sauces,Gluten Free,Seafood

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Paella started its renowned reputation in the Valencia region of Spain as an immensely flavorful rice dish cooked in a large shallow round pan.  Spanish cuisine is one I have very little experience with (well, besides enjoying eating it!), and I was thrilled when this month’s host, Olga, chose paella for the Daring Cooks Challenge #4.  The original dish here was designed by José Andrés and titled creamy rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes, from his TV show Made in Spain. I used mussels instead of cuttlefish though, because they are cheap and we are poor grad students.

There were three different components to this dish – the sofregit, allioli, and the paella itself.

The sofregit is a slow cooked Spanish sauce made of tomatoes, garlic, onions, mushrooms and bell pepper.  I decided to pulse it in a food processor until it became a marinara-like consistency.  I had lots leftover, and used it as a great pasta sauce later in the week!

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Some of the sofregit went into the paella, and the rest was served on the side.  For the paella, I sauteed short grain brown rice (which meant it had to cook longer, but that’s ok), artichoke hearts, garlic and mushrooms, then deglazed with a little white wine, and cooked the entire mixture in fish stock and wine.  I also added in a full teaspoon of saffron threads (one of our honeymoon purchases last year) which contributed a deep earthy flavor to this rustic dish.  I don’t own a paella pan, however, so I used one of my large saute pots, which worked really well.  You really just need a pan with a large surface area here and it will work fine.  Right at the end I added in the mussels and covered it for about 5 minutes, which steamed them well and they opened up beautifully.

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That little bowl of yellow mayonanise-like substance?  That’s the allioli (also written as “aioli”, but “allioli” is the Catalan spelling).  From now on, I’m calling it the “wasabi of the Mediterranean“.  I’d never tasted it or made it before, but WOW does it pack a punch!  You certainly don’t need much of this to add a lot of flavor to your dish!  I have no mortar and pestle, so I used a coffee grinder to grind the garlic into a paste, transferred it to a bowl, and added in salt and lemon juice.  I gradually added in olive oil, about 10 mL (sorry I think in metric, I am a chemist after all) to my 4 cloves of mashed up garlic.  At the time I had no idea if this was enough or not, but it looked like a good consistency and so I decided to stop it there before I added too much.  It turns out that you really need like an entire cup of olive oil, and you really are supposed to be creating an emulsion.  Next time I think I will add the olive oil faster as drop by drop for an entire cup would be about 5,000 drops!

To plate, I started with the sofregit, then added the paella/mussels and topped with a small amount of allioli.

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As you can see, we ate it all up!!

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate August 14, 2009 at 4:50 am

Yum! My partner is away this weekend and I was thinking of making something with mussels as he doesn’t like them – think this will be it!

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Loie August 14, 2009 at 9:08 am

Great job, it looks yum!

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Trissa August 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm

One of the prettier pictures and I am sure it tasted fantastic too!

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Junie Moon August 14, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Great job on the challenge. I love the way the mussels look with everything in your photos, adds a wonderful visual depth to delight the eye and, I’m sure, imbued another delicious dimension to the overall taste. Since I’m allergic to any seafood, I opted to use chicken in my project efforts.

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Disgruntled Julie August 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Yours looks fantastic! I’m a bit behind, what with all the weekend travel due to a long-distance marriage, but I’m making mine tonight (sans seafood) and I can’t wait!

And I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who transfers my laboratory-based metric skills into the kitchen. :)

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Josie August 14, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Oh yum, this looks delicious! I have been thinking about making paella for a few weeks now, I’d love to try your recipe!

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Simon August 14, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Wow, nice work with, well, everything! :)

Food looks great and the photos are good too. This looks like it would have been one hell of a treat!

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Lauren August 14, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Wow!! Gorgeous job – the dish looks fantastic, and your photos are simply amazing =D.

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climbhighak August 14, 2009 at 5:55 pm

First off your photos are great.

I wanted to add mussels or clams to the dish but was more curious about how it would taste with just the squid in my case. Next time when not in a challenge I will definitely add in some kind of shellfish. Nothing like the liqueur that shellfish release into a dish.

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Amy I. August 14, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Looks loverly, Jenn! I especially love your plating.

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Jen August 14, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Yum . . I really wanted to try this with mussels because 1) my husband loves mussels and 2) they add so much fragrance to the dish! Your dish looks wonderful (beautiful photos, btw) and I’m tempted to try it next time with mussels.

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Angie August 14, 2009 at 7:20 pm

AMAZING photographs! I’m glad you loved this just as much as I did!

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pigpigscorner August 14, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Yours looks really good esp with the mussels! Great shots!

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CHConrad August 14, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Love the picture of the pile of mussel shells. They look lovely in with the rice too. Makes me want to try it with mussels next time. Great job on this challenge.

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Charli August 15, 2009 at 1:13 am

That looks great with the mussels! Beautiful pics too :)

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Audax Artifex August 15, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Wonderful wonderful wonderful effort results and photos. Kudos to you and bravo to you. Just love the idea of the mussels. Cheers from audax in australia

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Delightfully Sweet August 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Looks amazing.
Your photography is great!

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Emilia August 15, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Love your photos; they just keep getting better and better! You are really very talented with the camera.

Paella is so good, I don’t think I’ve ever tried with brown rice though, maybe I should try that :)

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Valérie August 15, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Your pictures are wonderful! I love mussels, and I’m sure they went splendidly with the rice! Great job!

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Claire August 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Wow, I love your photos and using mussels sounds very tasty. Glad you enjoyed the challenge too.

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Alta August 15, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Wow, love the photographs! This sounds tasty!

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Jenni August 17, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Your dish looks great! And it really pops on that gorgeous white square plate! Good job!

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