The most popular dish in Spain, the famous Paella Marinera or Seafood Paella, is a lovely mix of seafood in a bomba rice dish flavoured with veggies, smoked paprika, and saffron. Spain gastronomy at its very best!
Paella Marinera (seafood paella) is a dish; I’ve studied quite a lot since I live in Spain. Also, it’s “the meal” every guest visiting looks forward to experiencing. So I did my share of Seafood paella; I even bought a unique burner and massive paellera pan for six people. The beauty in seafood paella is that you can use whatever “seafood” you prefer, although the usual crawfish (Cigalas) and prawns (Langostinos) are the standard toppings. You’ll also find mussels and clams in most seafood paellas, but it’s ultimately up to you and what you find at the market. The squid and cuttlefish are also used, although usually reserved for the black paella.
I’ve used crawfish as a topping for this version, and in the paella are a few clams and shrimps. But you could also use other types of seafood like lobster, prawns, scallops, etc. This seafood paella is the most popular for visitors but is not the original version. The paella Valenciana is! A rabbit and snail version. Yeah… not as popular, let’s say.
What gives the colour to a seafood paella, if you do it the natural way (no colourant), is the paprika and saffron. Often omitted, the saffron gives this tremendous golden colour to paella; the only “problem” with it… its price. So if you do not have any saffron, you can always use some smoked paprika (spicy or sweet), and if you want an extra colour, add little turmeric.
Sofrito or not?
One of the biggest debacles in Spain is: Does a paella need to start with a Sofrito or not? First, a Sofrito is this red paste from frying tomato, onion and garlic in olive oil until it makes a red paste. This gives taste and colour to many Spanish dishes.
The flavour of this dish lies mainly in the quality of the fish broth or fumet. This fumet must be tasty, and you’ll have a successful paella. It’s pretty easy to make your fumet. You make fish broth (fumet) faster than any other broth because the bones are minuscule. Plus, all the meat from the head gives it all in just a few minutes. For this paella, I’ve used a good artisanal premade fumet.
This dish is usually eaten on a Sunday afternoon, surrounded by friends and family—a whole afternoon event sitting at the terrasse of a restaurant. But also popular in the streets, it served as a communal dinner between neighbours. Originally, paellas were made over direct fire, giving the paella a smokey flavour. However, nowadays, you use the unique Pimenton de la Vera (smoked paprika; spicy or sweet) to recreate this smoky flavour.
The Divine Socarrat
The best part of paella is the tasty toasted crust at the bottom of the pan. It’s called the “Socarrat” and is only possible when using the special paella pan with a direct flame; otherwise, you’ll never get to create it. It’s unnecessary, although a paella without this toasted crust “Socarrat” is like a cheeseburger without cheese in Spain.
To Serve with
So let’s make this famous Spanish recipe!
Paella Marinera (Seafood Paella)
- large paellera (30cm) or large pan
- 6 crawfish (and/or prawns)
- 20 shrimps (medium sized)
- 20 clams
- 300 g bomba rice
- 750 g fumet
- 100 ml white wine (optional)
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tomato (cut into 2)
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper (cut into small dices)
- 2 tsp Pimenton de la Vera (or paprika)
- 1 pinch saffron
- salt and pepper
- Start by warming up the broth in a pot.
- Then sear the crawfish or prawns in the paellera (or pan) in olive oil, medium-high heat, for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Reserve.
- Add the onion and garlic to the paella pan with olive oil, medium-high heat, until translucent.
- With a fine cheese grater, grate the inside of the tomato over the onions until only the skin is left.
- Add the red pepper, paprika, shrimp tails, clams and white wine.
- Wait until the juice becomes a light paste; mix during this time (the clams will open up).
- Make a well in the pan's middle and add more olive oil.
- Add the rice in the middle, and mix well for a minute or two until the rice is slightly translucent.
- Add the warm broth to cover by double the height of the rice, and bring to medium-high heat.
- Add the saffron and salt, and mix for a last time the paella.
- Cook the first 5-6 minutes to medium-high heat, then reduce to medium-low heat for the last 10 minutes.
- Add the crawfish and/or prawn a few minutes before the end.
- Check for the rice doneness, and add broth or water if necessary.
- When the rice is al dente, take off the fire and cover it with a clean towel.
- Let the paella soak up all the liquid left for 3 minutes.