It seemed fitting that before my dear friend Caterina left Barcelona to work as a chef in a Pyrenean mountain lodge - I miss her already!!! - a group of us got together to make a giant Catalan paella in her honor.
Each region of Spain has it's own take on paella and Catalonia isn't especially well-known for it's particular version but I can't get enough!
The following recipe is a combined effort of many of Caterina's friends remembering how their Catalan mother / grandmother used to make it. I was a very happy observer in this undertaking.
One thing everyone agreed upon: only fresh seafood will do. Don't bother otherwise.
Seafood per person
2 large prawns in shells
1/4 lb squid
Other than the seafood, the remaining ingredients are easy to find:
Ingredients (for 6 people)
3 cups of white short-grain rice
6 cups of fish stock
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
24 oz of chopped tomatoes in juice (canned or fresh)
2 tbs of red bell pepper paste
Handful of peas
1/4 cup chopped parsley
(optional: one chopped carrot, red pepper, green pepper, if you are feeling healthy)
Note: they tell me saffron is just for color and tourists. Who knew?
First, soak the mussels and clams in salty water so excess sand dissolves. Throw away any shells that don't close once in water, but then reopen them with a knife once they are clean.
Next, chop the squid into thin, bite-sized strips. You may have to use scissors for the tough parts:
In a large pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion (and carrot / peppers). Once soft, add the can of tomatoes with juice and the squid strips. Stir this mixture for about 15 minutes until the squid soaks up all the juices.
In another pan, stir-fry the un-peeled shrimp until they turn an appetizingly pinkish-orange color and set aside:
Next, add the peas, rice and parsley to the squid and let heat for a moment. Then add fish stock, clams and mussels and stir until the rice gets completely cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Finally, arrange the seafood in an beautiful pattern and viola!
The paella was surprisingly easy to make and more delicious than anything I've been served in a restaurant. As for Caterina, she is the best too!