Photo by Ty Mecham
Author Notes: Crackling top and bottom, succulent goodness in the center: that’s our seafood paella. We do it Catalan-style, adding both sofrito and picada for a more robust flavor. The former brings the earthy sweetness of caramelized tomatoes, onions, and garlic; the latter delivers the fresh bite of parsley in a saffron-scented olive oil. Lobster stock deepens the from-the-sea juiciness of cuttlefish, squid, mussels, clams, and cod. A lot of our diners tell us it’s the best paella they’ve ever had anywhere in the world. Follow this simple formula and you’ll hear the same when you serve it at home.
Reprinted from Boqueria: A Cookbook, from Barcelona to New York. Copyright © 2018 by Marc Vidal and Yann de Rochefort. Published by Absolute Press.
For the paella:
4 cups Lobster Stock (see below)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
4 ounces monkfish or cod, cut into 1/2-inch slices
6 large shell-on, head-on shrimp, preferably red shrimp
1/4 pound cuttlefish, cut into 1/2-inch dice (If you can’t find cuttlefish, also called sepia, you can use more squid instead.)
7 ounces squid bodies and tentacles, bodies cut into 1/2-inch rings
3 tablespoons Sofrito (see below)
3 tablespoons Picada (see below)
1 1/2 cups bomba rice
12 mussels, beards removed, cleaned well (discard any that have opened)
12 manila clams or cockles, scrubbed well (discard any that have opened)
1 pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Bring the lobster stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to keep warm until ready to use.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 16-inch paella pan over high heat. Season the monkfish and shrimp with salt and pepper and put in the hot oil in a single layer. Cook until well seared and browned, turning once for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Heat another 2 tablespoons oil in the pan. Add the cuttlefish and squid to the hot pan in a single layer, season with salt, and stir well. If the pan is dry, add another tablespoon oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely seared, browned, and popping, about 5 minutes.
- Add the sofrito and cook, stirring, then reduce the heat to low and stir in the picada. Add the hot lobster stock and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil and season to taste with salt. Sprinkle the rice evenly in the pan. Stir it a little to make sure it’s evenly distributed and submerged in the liquid, but then don’t touch it again. You don’t want to activate the starches and make the mixture creamy like a risotto. You want the grains to cook separately from each other.
- Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is al dente, about 10 minutes.
- Tuck the mussels, clams, shrimp, and fish into the rice, evenly spacing them around the pan. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon oil over the rice and raise the heat to high. Cook until the mussels and clams open (discarding any that don’t), all of the liquid evaporates, and the rice forms the socarrat crust on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rest for about 5 minutes. Uncover and serve directly from the pan.
For the lobster stock, sofrito, picada:
9 raw lobster heads (2 pounds) (Chef’s tip: You can ask for lobster heads at your local market’s seafood counter. If you can’t find them, use 2 pounds of large shell-on shrimp with heads instead.)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cooking brandy
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 onion, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 head garlic, cut in half through its “equator”
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 tablespoons sweet pimentón (smoked paprika)
3 tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound ripe tomatoes, cut in 1-inch chunks
18-ounce) white Spanish onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
1/2 cup blended canola-olive oil
1 dried ñora pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 (3/4-inch-thick) slices baguette
1 pinch of saffron threads
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pinch Kosher salt, to taste
- To make the lobster bisque, pull the top shells of the lobster heads off the bottoms. Cut the top shells in quarters and cut the bottoms in half lengthwise, then crosswise into thirds.
- Heat 5 tablespoons oil in a large stockpot over high heat until smoking hot. Add the lobster pieces, in a single layer if possible. Cook, turning the pieces occasionally, until well caramelized, about 15 minutes. The shells should be bright red and the meat dark brown.
- Add the brandy. If you’re comfortable flambéing, light the alcohol very carefully with a long match. Otherwise, let the brandy boil until it has almost completely evaporated. Transfer the lobster pieces and all the pan juices to a large bowl.
- Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the same stockpot and heat over medium-high heat. Add the leek, carrot, onion, garlic, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until well caramelized and browned, about 15 minutes.
- Add the pimentón and stir well, then immediately add the tomatoes to prevent the pimentón from burning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add 4 quarts cold water and return the lobster and all its juices to the pot.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour to steep. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on all the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. The stock can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months.
- To make the sofrito, put the tomatoes, onion, and garlic, in that order, into a blender or food processor. Pulse until well mixed, then purée until almost smooth but with a few small chunks remaining. Transfer to a large saucepan with the oil and stir well. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and sweet, about 3 hours.
- To make the picada, cover the ñora pepper with very hot (almost boiling) water in a bowl. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Drain the pepper and discard the stem and seeds. Use a spoon to scrape out the flesh. Reserve the flesh and discard the skin. Put the garlic and a large pinch of salt in a mortar or food processor. Pound with a pestle or pulse the machine until the garlic becomes a paste. Add the parsley and pepper flesh and pound or pulse until the leaves are very finely ground. Fill a small skillet with the canola-olive oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil is hot and shimmering. Add the baguette slices and cook, turning once, until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Transfer to the mortar or processor and immediately sprinkle the saffron on top. Pound or pulse until the mixture is smooth. Add the olive oil and stir with the pestle or pulse in the machine until fully incorporated.