Archive for the 'Seafood' Category

Fisherman’s Paella (Paella a la Marinera)

Fisherman’s Paella (Paella a la Marinera)

Not too long after arriving home from Spain, I tried my hand at making Fisherman’s Paella (Paella a la Marinera). Taste memory is a very powerful asset in the kitchen and I wanted to take full advantage of it while the flavors of Valencia were still fresh in my mind. I also wanted to use the saffron and rice that I picked up at the Mercado Central while they were at their absolute best.

I turned to Saveur magazine, an authority on authentic recipes, to guide me through the homemade paella process. According to the recipe developers, there are six principles to achieving really fabulous paella. The ones I found most important were steeping the saffron at the very beginning and sautéing the seafood in hot oil to build a strong flavor base. “The key is to build flavors from the bottom of the pan up,” the editors emphasized. Paella pans are designed for this purpose, though a wide skillet of the same size will work, too.

The seafood used in this recipe was provided by I Love Blue Sea, a web-based sustainable seafood company in San Francisco. The Gulf shrimp were caught using turtle-free nets, the squid came from the Northern California coast, and the clams were a combination of Littleneck and Manila. The original recipe called for monkfish, but I decided to eliminate it from the recipe after learning that it is overfished and caught using bottom trawling, which decimates the ocean floor. Try as I might to keep abreast on the dos and don’ts of sustainable seafood, I can’t always remember everything I read. I was thankful to have a trusty consultant in I Love Blue Sea to point me in the most eco-friendly direction.

My homemade Fisherman’s Paella turned out as pretty and tasty as I had hoped. The rice was cooked perfectly al dente, while the seafood was sublime. Best of all, I was able to achieve the subtle flavors that made the paella in Valencia so special. I have just enough rice and saffron to prepare the recipe two more times. I will have to space out the occasions carefully to fill the interval until my next visit to Spain.

  • 25 threads saffron, crushed (a heaping 1⁄4 tsp.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs. extra-large head-on shrimp in the shell
  • 1 lb. cuttlefish or small squid, cleaned and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 4 medium tomatoes, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 2 1⁄2 cups short-grain rice, preferably Valencia or bomba
  • 2 lbs. small clams, cleaned

Fisherman’s Paella (Paella a la Marinera)

Put saffron and 1⁄4 cup hot water in a small bowl; let sit for 15 minutes.

Fisherman’s Paella (Paella a la Marinera)

Heat oil in a 16″–18″ paella pan over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, lightly salt, and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside.

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Home-Cured Salmon (Gravlax)

GRAVLAX

Last July, Girlie of Boots in the Oven posted about the simplicity of home-curing salmon. I mentally bookmarked the recipe for a later date because there was no salmon to speak of in Saigon. This past weekend, the fishmonger cut a fillet too large for a dish that The Astronomer was preparing, so I decided to “smoke” the leftover section. This simple method of preserving salmon is Scandinavian in origin and is called gravlax. Gravlax is similar to lox (cured salmon that has been cold smoked) and is sometimes referred to as Gravad lox.

I began with a skinless and boneless salmon fillet about five inches long, two inches wide and a half inch thick. Boots’ recipe calls for one part salt and one part sugar. Since I was only curing an itty bitty fillet, I went with one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of salt. I poured the sugar and salt directly into a Ziploc bag and tossed in the fillet to coat (top photo).

After sealing up the bag, I stuck it in the refrigerator under the weight of five blocks of cream cheese (Boots used a baking sheet weighted down by miscellaneous foods for her much larger fillet). I jostled the bag every twelve hours or so to redistribute the juices. The bottom photo is what the salmon looked like after thirty-six hours of chilling in the fridge.

GRAVLAX

The salmon is ready for consumption after a full day in the fridge. The longer the salmon chills in the bag, the saltier it gets. After thirty-six hours, I removed the fillet from the bag, rinsed it under cold water and patted it dry.

GRAVLAX

Using a sharp knife, I cut the salmon into thin slices. The verdict? Really tasty. The gravlax tasted just like traditional smoked salmon. I seriously can’t believe how easy it is to make!
GRAVLAX

Gravlax tastes most excellent atop a toasted and schmeared bagel. For more ideas on how to prepare gravlax, check out Boots in the Oven and Cooking for Engineers.

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