While it is easy to generalize and think that all of Spain has eaten paella since time in memoriam, such is not the case.
The Moors brought short grain rice to the Iberian Peninsula in 710 and ruled Spain until 1492. They also brought the tagine pan with its chimney shaped top. While the tagine top was discarded over time, the shallow, slant-side pan and short grain rice remained, especially in the coastal town of Valencia.
Initially, these dishes featured snails, beans, vegetables, wild rabbit, sometimes a chicken. During the medieval era, rich meat and savory seafood most often appeared on the tables of the wealthy.
As products from the New World appeared in Spain, such as tomatoes, they were often added to the coastal rice dishes.
One of the saddest period of Spanish history occurred when Franco crushed the Second Republic and its beloved capital, Valencia. Franco so hated all that Valencia represented (freedom, democracy) that he ordered his mercenary troops could shoot anyone making or eating their famed rice dish!
Decades later during the efforts to rebuild Spain’s economy, this very dish, renamed “Spanish Paella” to remove any credit to Valencia, would be promoted as a major part of the tourist outreach program.
Today Paella is served with pride in Valencia and its citizens are delighted when visiting guests enjoy a dish now known and enjoyed around the world!
SEAFOOD PAELLA A LA VALENCIANA
- 6 cups stock, half chicken and half seafood or shrimp
- 1/2 tablespoon saffron threads
- 12 monkfish medallions, about 1 1/2 pounds total
- 4 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 cups short-grain rice, preferably Spanish
- 2 cups fresh green peas
- 1 small red bell pepper, seared over flame to blacken skin, then peeled, cored and cut in strips
- 1 small green bell pepper, seared over flame, peeled, cored and cut in strips
- 18 large shrimp, peeled and deveined, about 1 pound
- 1 pound medium-size Taylor Shellfish Farm Mediterraanan Mussels
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions.
- Place stock in saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Remove from heat and add saffron.
- Set aside.
- Rub monkfish with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Set aside.
- Preheat grill to 400 degrees.
- Heat remaining oil in 17-inch paella pan.
- Add onion and garlic and cook over low heat until soft.
- Add rice and stir to coat.
- Add stock and stir.
- Simmer 10 minutes.
- Check seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
- Stir in peas and place strips of peppers, alternating colors, around pan like spokes on a wheel.
- Place shrimp and monkfish around pan; add mussels, hinge-side down.
- Place over fire and cook until shrimp and monkfish are cooked and mussels have opened, about 15 minutes.
- Discard any unopened mussels.
- Remove from flame.
- Cover loosely with foil.
- Set aside 10 minutes.
- Scatter scallions on top and serve.