This year for Valentine’s Day, my husband and I opted for a dinner date at home. On the menu? A pan full of seafood paella. We kept to a strictly seafood and vegetable version so no chorizo or chicken in this one. Of course, you’re welcome to add those ingredients if you’re longing for a more “traditional” taste.
Why did we choose paella? Because paella is such a fun, festive, passionate dish; the star of a party, popping with bursts of color, aroma, and flavor. Paella embodies soul food and is a dish that is often customized in slightly different ways for every family. For these reasons, the dish is quite perfect for Valentine’s Day (albeit commercialized) meant to manifest passion, soul, traditions, and personal stories.
My approach in cooking the rice separately is not traditional for paella, I know, but I really wanted to incorporate the gaba brown rice from our rice cooker. I made sure to infuse the rice with saffron during its 3.5 hour cooking process, and then added the rice to the pan with the rest of the ingredients for a good 20 minutes to allow for the flavors to infuse. As with my approach to keeping this dish strictly seafood (sans meat/poultry), you’re more than welcome to let the rice cook in the paella pan.
My favorite moment of the dish is opening the lid, watching all the steam cloud up above the stovetop filling the kitchen with layers of aroma, unearthing the colors of the paella as the steam clears, triggering the gustatory receptors in anticipation of all the goodness about to hit the taste buds.
- Red Bell Pepper
- Yellow Onion
- Sweet Green Peas
- Vegetable Broth
- Smoked Paprika
- Sweet Paprika
- Brown Rice
- Salt + Pepper
- Using my method of pre-cooking the rice in a rice cooker, do so according to package/instructions. Be sure to infuse the cooking liquid with saffron.
- About 15-20 minutes prior to the rice being done, start prepping the rest of the ingredients.
- Rub sweet and smoked paprika as well as salt + pepper onto the salmon.
- In a paella pan over medium heat, brown the salmon for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside beneath tented aluminum foil.
- Drizzle in a little oil to the pan and sauté chopped garlic, chopped onions, and chopped parsley. Lower the heat and let simmer.
- Raise the heat up to medium and fold the cooked rice into the pan, allowing the garlic, onions, and parsley to meld into the rice. Season with salt + pepper.
- Add chopped red bell pepper, green peas, and capers as you sauté the ingredients. Allow the rice to capture each ingredient.
- Toss in the spices – smoked paprika and sweet paprika.
- Add the squid, salmon (flesh removed from the skin and broken into small chunks with hands), and mussels.
- Pour in a little vegetable broth, reduce the heat, close the lid, and let cook for 12 minutes.
- Once the 12 minutes are up, open up the lid and add the shrimp. They will only need about 5-8 minutes of cooking time.
- Once the shrimp have cooked, garnish the pan with extra chopped parsley and lemon wedges.