In the midst of all the craziness in my life lately, I can't remember how long it had been since I simply followed and cooked a recipe for myself with no intention of photographing it.
When things are overwhelming and there is a lot happening in life threatening to make me feel like I'm drowning, I always go back to the drawing board of what makes me feel grounded. My daily non-negotiables become even more important to adhere to, and making sure to not neglect my own self-care while running around trying to take care of everyone else too.
One of the things I love most is cooking without pressure or need. There is something that has always felt luxuriously indulgent to me about getting losing oneself in the process of cooking a delightful meal because your heart desires something homey, comforting, and wholesome from scratch. It's not always about macros or Instagram in life, people! I think the joy of cooking sometimes get lost nowadays in doing it for the purpose of the photo...
Last week I worked nearly about 80 hours cumulatively on top of the very heavy personal stuff going on, and it has felt like I had not had a moment to take a breath for myself. Going into the week, I knew it was going to be like this, and I happened to come across a post on the feedfeed by Afrodite's Kitchen. I instantly was dying for some cozy, heartiness of this gorgeous paella, and I knew it was a sign I should take the evening to myself to make this dish. Plus, hello, leftover dinners set for the rest of the crazy week ahead- check!
It was SO darn lovely to follow a recipe and be told what to do, and just purely enjoy every step of creating a dish I had never attempted before. My amazing client brought me back some Spanish saffron on her recent vacation, and it was just waiting for me to use it in this classic seafood paella. I adapted Afrodite's recipe a bit to fit my ingredients and will post my adaptation below, but her recipe worked pretty fantastically for a first time paella attempt of mine.
I originally did not intend to take photos of my completed dish because I didn't want to rush myself to finish everything before sundown and the natural light faded away, so I took my sweet time. It just so happened to be one of those lovely, long summer evenings where the sun was staying out to play quite late, and so I casually strolled over to the window to take a couple quick shots before digging in.
The paella also stayed super fresh in a glass tupperware in the fridge throughout the entire workweek, and reheated beautifully. Arborio rice keeps well and doesn't turn soggy! Plus, this entire dish is gluten-free and dairy-free, so that is awesome.
You don't need a special paella pan, although I would like to eventually try making it in one, one day. My 10-inch Lodge cast iron was filled to the brim but cooked everything beautifully and made for an easy cleanup, so I was rather happy.
It's a pretty easy to follow recipe for even beginner cooks, and a paella is definitely a gorgeously impressive dish to share when you have people to enjoy it with together. Ah, now I'm getting lost in memories of my trip to Spain a few years back, what a gorgeous country!
Anyway, let's get to it!
Classic Simple Seafood Paella
~1 dozen large fresh Shrimp, peeled/deveined, tail on
1/4lb fresh Squid (Calamari), cut into rings
~1/2 dozen fresh Clams (or Mussels!)
1 cup Arborio Rice
4 tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Spanish Sweet Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
.85 Cup (200 ml) White Wine
1 generous large pinch of Saffron
1 tbsp Paprika
1/2 tbsp Turmeric
1 Bay Leaf
1 cup Green Peas
1 fresh Roma Tomato, pureed in a blender
32 oz. Chicken Stock (or Vegetarian)
Salt and Pepper to taste
*Note: I steam-cooked the clams on the side in lemon juice and white wine, then just topped the paella with it. If you'd like to cook the clams or mussels directly in the paella at the end, feel free.
1. In skillet, heat up olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes until onion becomes translucent.
2. Add the rice and stir well to coat thoroughly in olive oil. Cook for about a minute, then add white wine and stir mixture until wine reduces in about 45 seconds. Add paprika, turmeric, bay leaves, and saffron, and a splash of chicken stock, then stir well to combine. Add in pureed tomato and stir well. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continuously stir mixture and keep adding chicken stock as the rice absorbs it over then next 15-20 minutes. You will use the majority of the chicken stock here. Add in green peas and stir to combine.
3. Then add shrimp and squid into rice mixture. Cook for about 15 minutes until seafood is thoroughly cooked through and rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve!
Tip: You may be concerned if it seems too "soupy" at first, but the rice will very quickly soak up the excess liquid- plus, it's great for keeping leftovers fresher for longer!