There are few things more satisfying than doing practically nothing, but convincing others you are a superhero. In the kitchen, even the most culinarily challenged can trick diners into thinking they slaved all day over the stove.
Paella has this sort of magic. Wow your family and friends with this easy seafood paella recipe from "The New Spanish Table" by Anya von Bremzen. They never have to know that you barely lifted a finger.
CHIRINGUITO SEAFOOD PAELLA
Total time: About 1 1/2 hours | Serves 6
3 1/2 cups clam juice diluted with 1 1/2 cups water
1 large pinch saffron, pulverized in a mortar
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound monkfish or other firm-fleshed fish, cut into 1-inch chunks (Scallops may be substituted)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
4 to 6 ounces cleaned squid, bodies and tentacles cut into 1-inch pieces
10 medium garlic cloves (8 crushed with a garlic press, 2 minced), divided
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut in half and grated on a box grater, skins discarded
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet (not smoked) paprika
1 3/4 cups short- to medium-grain rice, preferably Vialone Nano
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
12 small littleneck clams or mussels, scrubbed
12 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the diluted clam juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the saffron and keep the stock at a slow simmer until ready to use.
Place 3 tablespoons of the oil in a 15- or 16-inch paella pan set over a single burner and heat on medium heat until it starts to smoke. Add the monkfish and cook until barely seared, 1 to 2 minutes, seasoning it lightly with salt. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fish to a bowl and set aside. Add the squid to the pan, stirring, until just seared, about 2 minutes, seasoning it with salt.
Push the squid to the edges of the paella pan, where it's not as hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the center of the pan. Add the eight cloves of crushed garlic and cook until fragrant, less than 15 seconds. Add the tomatoes to the center of the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring the tomatoes several times, until they are thickened and reduced, 5 to 7 minutes. Season lightly again with salt. Using two wooden spoons, push the squid toward the center of the pan and mix it up with the tomatoes. Add the paprika and stir for a few seconds.
Add the rice to the paella pan and stir it gently to coat with the pan mixture. Pour in 3 1/2 cups of the simmering stock, keeping the remaining stock simmering in case it is needed later. Set the paella pan over two burners, stir in the parsley and a sprinkling of salt, and shake the pan gently to distribute the rice evenly. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Periodically move and rotate the pan so that the liquid boils evenly.
Press the clams and the monkfish into the top of the rice and cook unti the cooking liquid is almost level with the rice but the rice is still rather soupy, another 2 to 3 minutes. If the liquid is absorbed too fast and the rice still seems too raw, sprinkle on some more stock.
Transfer the paella pan to the oven and bake until the clams open and the rice is tender but still a little al dente, about 15 minutes. Check the paella a few times and sprinkle more stock over the rice if it seems too al dente. Remove the paella from the oven and discard any clams that have not opened. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover the pan and let stand for another 5 minutes (the rice gets better as it stands).
While the rice is standing, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Stir-fry the shrimp, a few at a time, adding some of the minced garlic to each batch, until the shrimp are bright pink and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl and keep warm.
To serve, arrange the lemon wedges around the edge of the paella pan and decorate the top with the shrimp. Serve the paella straight from the pan, along with allioli, for stirring into the rice.