By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
The word paella is derived from the word pan. Traditionally, this Spanish dish is cooked in one pan, with the addition of each ingredient carefully timed so that all ingredients finish cooking at the same time. But the executive chef at Iron City’s The Grill, William Rogers, prepares paella one serving at a time, which also allows him to get creative with leftover ingredients.
Roasted Tomato and Fennel Broth:
3 large ripe tomatoes
1 medium bulb of fennel
10 garlic cloves
½ cup cooking oil (olive oil blend, preferably)
1 medium yellow onion
6 cups vegetable, chicken, or seafood stock
Procedure: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Thinly slice fennel, onion, and garlic. Cut tomatoes into large chunks. Toss all veggies with cooking oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 10–15 minutes or until almost charred and golden brown. Let cool. Purée in the blender with enough stock to help smooth the purée. Combine purée and the remaining stock. Simmer on medium heat for 10–15 minutes. For less chunky broth, strain. Set aside for later.
Saffron Jasmine Rice Pilaf:
2 cups Jasmine rice
2 cups sweet peas
1 cup carrots, finely diced
1 cup red bell peppers, finely diced
1 cup red or yellow onion, finely diced
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
a large “pinch” (about 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons) of saffron threads
5 cups of vegetable, chicken, or seafood stock
salt and pepper
Procedure: Place the saffron threads and stock in a small pot and simmer for about eight to 10 minutes, to “bloom out” the flavor and color of the saffron threads. Let cool for a few minutes. Add rice and vegetables. Bring to a slight boil or simmer. Cover with heat on medium to low for about 10–15 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Set aside.
Protein Ingredients (for four servings):
1 ½ pounds mussels, washed, purged, and “bearded”
20–25 Alabama Gulf shrimp, peeled, and deveined (tail on or off as preferred)
2 cups Spanish chorizo, diced
1 cup calamari tubes and tentacles, chopped
fresh herbs, enough parsley, chives, or thyme for garnish
1 cup cooking oil (olive oil blend, preferably)
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
Combining and Plating Paella: Traditionally, this dish would all be cooked together in one pot. But in this recipe, we cook four batches in a large 10-inch sauté pan one at a time, dividing the ingredients into fourths for the cooking. Add ¼ cooking oil and one teaspoon minced garlic. Toast the garlic and add a splash of stock. Add five to six mussels. Toss in ½ cup of diced Spanish chorizo. Add another ¼ cup stock. Add shrimp and calamari. Toss once or twice. Add one cup saffron rice pilaf and one cup roasted tomato and fennel broth. Stir, mixing together. Reduce over medium heat until a small amount of little liquid remains. Add salt and pepper to taste. Plate on a large plate or in a large bowl, setting aside the shrimp and mussels with tongs. Place the mussels in a circular pattern around the dish with the open mouth facing upwards. Place saffron rice pilaf, calamari, and Spanish chorizo in the center of the dish, inside ring of mussels. Place shrimp atop the rice. Garnish with some fresh herbs. Serves four.