When the Spanish Conquistador Cortez arrived in Mexico in 1521 he landed at Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. With him came the landless second and third sons of the Spanish nobility as well as the poor all looking for fame, fortune and farmable land.
But they also brought with them the cuisine of Spain, now influenced by the newly discovered ingredients of the New World. For centuries the stable dish of the disinherited and the poor was a simple dish made of short grain rice, cooked in a shallow pan.
Because meat and shellfish were ingredients enjoyed solely by the privileged, the unfortunate of Spanish society dined on rice topped only with snails, beans, and an occasional wild rabbit or ‘stray’ chicken.
The New World offered a seemingly endless array of new ingredients, all free for the taking (at least from the Spanish point of view). Mussels, clams, tomatoes and peppers were added to Spain’s Arroz Pobre. The result was legendary.
Though it would be centuries before the name “paella” was added to Veracruz’s favorite dish, the City still treasures this dish, steeped not only in flavor but also in history.
PAELLA A LA VERACRUZ
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste or finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 4 Poblano Chile Peppers, seeded and sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 cups short grain Arborio or Carnaroli Rice
- 3 cups fish stock, plus more if needed
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 12 clams in their shells
- 16 Taylor Shellfish Farms Mediterrranean Mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- Fry the onion in the oil in a 16-inch paella pan until soft, stirring often.
- Stir in the garlic.
- Before the garlic begins to color, add the tomatoes.
- Add the sugar, chile peppers and paprika
- Salt to taste.
- Stir well.
- Cook until the tomatoes are reduced to a jammy sauce and the oil is sizzling.
- Add the rice and stir well until all the grains are coated.
- Bring the stock and wine to a boil in a saucepan.
- Pour over the rice.
- Bring to a boil.
- Add salt to taste
- Stir well and spread the rice out evenly in the pan.
- Do NOT stir again.
- Place the mussels and clam on the top of the rice.
- Cook the rice over low heat for 18 to 20 minutes.
- Add a little more hot stock toward the end if the rice seems too dry.
- Listen for crackly frying noises to indicate doneness.
- When the rice is done, turn off the heat.
- Cover the pan with a large piece of foil.