Norma Chikiamco

SEAFOOD PAELLA

Seafood Paella
by Norma Chikiamco

Makes 6-8 servings

For the fish “cream”:
1 head garlic, crushed
2 stems leeks, diced
1 stem celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1 c olive oil
1 stalk fresh rosemary, or ½ tsp dried rosemary
1 stalk fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 k lapu lapu, maya maya or any white fish, scales, bones and skin removed, then sliced into fillets
1 c white wine
1 ripe tomato, sliced
2 c water
1 slice day-old bread

For the fish stock:
1½ k maya-maya or lapu-lapu or any white fish
½ c olive oil
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pinch of saffron thread
16 c water
Salt

For the tomato sauce:
¼ c olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 400-g can peeled tomatoes

For the paella:
¼ c olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
Salt
½ k squid, ink sacs and skin removed, then cut into rings
2 c short-grain rice such as Arborio or Japanese rice
½ c prepared fish “cream”
½ c prepared tomato sauce
5 c prepared fish stock
1 tbsp Knorr beef broth base (or chicken powder)
½ k medium to large size unpeeled prawns
½ k mussels, cleaned and previously steamed, shells opened
½ k large shrimps, peeled

To serve:

2 tbsp finely diced garlic
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley leaves
½ c olive oil
Lemon wedges

Make the fish cream:
In a large saucepan, combine garlic, leeks, celery, carrots, onions and olive oil. Simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. Add rosemary, thyme, pepper and fish. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. Add white wine and tomatoes. Simmer until alcohol evaporates, around five minutes. Pour in water and continue simmering for another 30 minutes. Add day-old bread and simmer until liquid thickens (the bread acts as a thickener). By this time, the liquid would have been greatly reduced. Strain into a bowl and set the liquid aside (discard the solids).

Make the fish stock:
Remove skin and bones from fish and cut into fillet sizes (or you can have this done in the market when you buy the fish).  Heat olive oil in a large stockpot and sauté fish, peppers, carrots, onions and garlic. Add saffron and continue sautéing for about five to 10 minutes. Pour in water then season lightly with salt.  Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract more liquid. Set the liquid aside and discard the solids.

Make the tomato sauce:
In a skillet, heat olive oil and sauté garlic. Pour in tomatoes and the juices. Press on the tomatoes to crush them. Simmer for about five minutes while stirring occasionally.

Cook the paella:
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a paellera or any shallow, wide, ovenproof pan, heat the olive oil to medium and sauté the onions and bell peppers. Season well with salt.  Add squid and continue sautéing. Add the rice and stir so rice gets coated with the oil. Add the prepared fish “cream” and tomato sauce and stir gently to blend. Pour in five cups of the prepared fish stock. Let simmer while stirring continuously for around five minutes. Stir in beef broth base and continue simmering over medium heat while stirring the mixture gently for about five minutes more.

Add the prawns, mussels and shrimps, distributing them around the rice. Simmer for around five minutes, then transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Let cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and rice is fully cooked, around 15 minutes.

To serve:
Combine garlic, parsley and olive oil. Pour all over the top of the paella. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Cook’s tips

1.      Make sure the mussels are very fresh. Use mussels only when there’s no threat of red tide.

2.      Do not add the fish bones when making the fish stock, advises InterCon executive chef Alisdair Bletcher, or the liquid will become cloudy. Or, if you wish to add the fish bones, simmer the stock for less than 20 minutes.

Saffron is available in specialty stores such as Terry’s, Santis Delicatessen and La Tienda, as well as in big supermarkets like Rustan’s and Landmark. It’s quite expensive but you need just a few threads of it for the paella. Store remaining saffron in a tightly covered container away from direct sunlight.

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