Grilled Paella is inarguably the live fire dish of Spanish coastal summers. Just imagine enjoying a long afternoon of sunny skies and a gentle breeze, lounging by the seaside on the western Mediterranean sipping crisp white wine amongst family and friends while a smoky, white-hot barbecue loaded with freshly harvest herbs and produce from land and sea slowly simmers to tender, fragrant perfection.
Take. Me. Away. Now.
With origins dating hundreds of years past to southeastern Spain’s L’Albufera de València, paella is a free-style peasant dish that was served in celebratory community gatherings – stewed in large, shallow steel pans over a bed of smoldering coals, the recipe traditionally featured a sticky white rice called, senia, and was layered with saltwater snails, wild rabbit, duck, tomato, white beans, dried paprika, rosemary and saffron. Little has changed over the centuries as it pertains to the art of cultivating a breathtaking paella. Above all, the beauty of paella, then and now – it’s intoxicating aroma, essence of flavor, bold textures and intricate complexities lie solely in the dish’s simplicity.
One fire. One pan. Elementary, locally-sourced ingredients. A few glasses of wine. And, a bit of patience.
Influenced by the foundations of the original Spanish ingredients and methods, this grilled seafood paella features a bold array of shellfish, spicy pork sausage, a garden of fresh, earthy vegetables and herbs, a plump arborio rice, and a roasting liquid of seafood stock and white wine that is brightened by lemon. Prepared over a 2-zone grilling surface and infused with the essence of alder wood, the true key in preparing this dish is using the same pan from beginning to end of the cook – building intense layers of flavor while incorporating the oils, browned bits and ingredients from one step of preparation into the next.
Now, cork a bottle of wine (or two), let your grill do the work, and enjoy a sunny afternoon in the backyard. I can assure you that your tested patience will be well-rewarded.
Valencian-Inspired Grilled Shellfish and Chorizo Paella
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 oz calamari
- 16 oz ground chorizo
- 16 oz prawn or large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 4-6 cloves garlic minced
- 3 large roma tomatoes chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups seafood stock
- 2 cups arborio rice soaked in warm water for 30 minutes before cooking, then drained
- 2 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 pinches sugar
- 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 2 large handfuls of shelled mussels and clams
- Sea salt and fresh ground peppercorn to taste
- 1 lemon sliced into 1/8ths, plus additional for serving
- Parsley chopped, to garnish
- Preheat grill by setting up a 2-zone cooking surface - turn one side of the grill to high heat (direct zone) while leaving the other side off (indirect zone). Warm oil in a large heavy bottom pan placed over the direct zone grill grates. Toss in calamari, chorizo and prawn. Sauté until calamari and chorizo are just crisp and prawn is near translucent in color – cautious to not overcook. Remove contents from the pan and set aside.
- Return same pan back to the direct zone grill grates, add onion, garlic and tomato and sauté for 7-10 minutes or until onion just begins to caramelize and garlic is fragrant. Scrape all contents and browned bits into a food processor and pulse until well-combined (this mixture is called a, “soffritto”).
- Place same pan over the cooler, indirect zone grill grates. Into the pan pour wine, seafood stock and whisk together with the soffritto. When liquids begin to simmer add rice, paprika, chili powder, saffron, pepper, sugar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Close grill lid and stir intermittently allowing mixture to slowly reduce by 1/2. Then, add red pepper and lemon slices, mussels and clams, and the sautéd chorizo, calamari and prawn. Stirring only intermittently, allow the dish to simmer with the grill lid closed until the shellfish open, are fully-cooked through and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Remove pan from the grill and cool uncovered for 5-10 minutes. To plate and serve, spoon paella into a shallow bowl, season additionally to taste, garnish with fresh lemon slices and chopped parsley.