I had the unexpected pleasure of having Christmas at home with only Kerry and I. We spent the eve with her lovely family in CT and had a great Feast of the Seven Fishes with her Italian family, but we trekked home for Christmas. I was gifted a paella pan, rice, and garden-dried parsley and we had purchased a bunch of fresh seafood on Christmas eve morning, with the intention of making some sort of feast for the holiday. I've rifted off of the paella concept in the past but always wanted to make a traditional version the the "real" pan. It was fantastic and made us enough food for days. I used regular Carolina white rice, but Bomba is the traditional Spanish version. If I can get my hands on that, I will try it the next go-round. Its important not to stir once you add the broth, as that is what forms the socarrat on the bottom of the pan, which is the delicious caramelized crust that forms on the bottom or the pan. There is speculation that this soccarat has aphrodisiac powers and that it fuels the passion of renowned Spanish lovers. You'll have to let me know if you find this to be true when you try this out!
16 oz clam juice or shrimp stock
Large pinch of saffron
1/4 cup extra virgins olive oil
1/2 Spanish onion, diced small
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, diced finely
1 1/2 medium grain rice
8 oz shrimp (shelled and veins removed; save shells)
8 oz sea scallops (dry)
12 littleneck clams
2 lemons, cut into wedges
1. Make the seafood broth: In a medium saucepan, bring 3 1/2 cups of water (If using Bomba rice, use 4 1/2 cups water), shrimp shells, sea salt, and the clam juice to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain out solids, reserving broth. Return it to the saucepan and add the saffron to steep. Taste for salt as it should be well-seasoned. Let sit off the heat.
2. In a 14" paella pan, heat the oil on medium high. Saute the seafood except clams until cooked through, about two minutes. Remove and reserve on a plate.
3. Reduce the heat to medium, and saute onions and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomato and saute, stirring often, until the color darkens to burgundy, about 15-20 minutes. If it starts to stick and burn, add a little additional oil. Season with sea salt.
4. Bring the broth back to a simmer. Add the rice to the pan with the sofrido and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high and pour in 3 cups of the broth (keep the rest reserved). Stir or shake the pan to distribute rice evenly.
5. Arrange the clams in the rice, submerging as much as possible. From this point on, do not stir the rice.
6. Simmer vigorously, moveing the pan over one and two burners to distribute the heat and to cook the rice as evenly as possible. When the rice is at the same level as the liquid (8-10 minutes), reduce the heat to medium-low.
7. Continue to simmer more gently, rotating the pan as necessary, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 10 minutes. Taste a grain just below the top layer of rice; it should be al dente with a little white dot in the center. If the rice is not done but all the liquid has been absorbed, add a bit more broth and cook a little longer.
8. Arrange the shrimp and scallops around the pan.
9. To create the soccarat, increate the heat to medium-high and rotating the plan, cook for about 2 minutes until the bottom later of rice starts to caramelize, creating the socarrat. The rice will crackle, but it starts to smell burned, remove the pan from the heat immediately.
10. Remove the pan from the heat and cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel, or foil and let the paella rest for 5 minutes to even the cooking and let the flavors meld.
11. Serve with lemon wedges and let your guests serve themselves, or place in the middle of the table and let people eat from there, if you have a small enough group.