At Sara’s Table: Recipe for Shrimp, Scallop & Chorizo Paella

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Jillian Forte the Executive Chef at Sara’s Table Chester Creek Café taught us how to make Shrimp, Scallop & Chorizo Paella. It’s from the popular Duluth restaurant’s 20th Anniversary Cookbook.

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Anyone who has traveled to Spain and had a traditional Paella knows the multi layered joys of this dish.  The squabble of sharing a single large piping hot paella pan meant to serve 4-12 people.  The myriad seafood and meats, depending on the region, the crunchy rice on the bottom that seems to have absorbed and crystallized all the flavors from above as they slide down through the rice.   I will be the first to admit that that experience is difficult to replicate in a restaurant in the USA but it is more possible at the home dinner table.  Most of us don’t have the classic paella pans in our pantries but have found a large cast iron pan to work just as well.  The rice often used in Spain is Bomba, however it can be hard to find and much more expensive stateside. A good substitute is short grain white basmati rice.  The other big difference here, sprung out of necessity for speedy ticket times in a restaurant, is that the rice is cooked separately, not all together as is typical.  Yes this recipe is different. No it is not authentic, but if you enjoy it at the café, you can easily recreate it at home!

Cook Time: 1 hour 45 minutes   Serves: 4-5            Gluten-Free  Dairy-Free

Gather: Large cast iron pan, measuring spoons and cups, chef knife and cutting board, food processor, fine mesh wire strainer, 2 sauce pots 

Golden Rice

2 Tbsp Cooking oil

2 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Cumin

3 cups White rice, short grained basmati or Bomba

6 cups Water

1 Tbsp Salt

10 strands Saffron

1 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Saffron Sofrito

1/4 Yellow Onion

1/4 cup Piquillo peppers * note below

1 small Tomato

3/4 tsp Garlic fresh minced

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1/8 tsp Paprika, smoked

1 Pinch Fennel, ground

1 Pinch Rosemary, ground

1/2 tsp Sea Salt

2 Tbsp White wine

2 cups Chicken stock

6 Shrimp shells

5-10 s trands Saffron

Putting it all together!

1 jar Piquillo Peppers, minus what you used in the Saffron Sofrito

2 links Chorizo, Yker Acres is the best!

8-12 Scallops

12-16 Shrimp

1-2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Dash Salt

1 Dash Paprika, smoked

1 cup Fresh Peas, frozen is ok, just defrost them

1 Lemon

Golden Rice

  1. Beginning with the rice, heat a heavy bottomed pot with 2 Tbsp of oil.  Add the turmeric and cumin and stir, allowing the spices to bloom in the oil for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and let it fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You will see the rice turn slightly opaque, some browning of the rice will occur and that is great.
  3. Add the water, salt, and saffron, give it one gentle stir, and allow it to come to a simmer, adjusting the heat lower after it boils.  Let most of the water simmer off, cover it, turn off the heat and let the steam and residual heat cook it.  Check it after about 20 minutes, give it a stir to fluff and make sure every grain is cooked evenly. Add the lemon juice, re-cover and let sit until it is done.

Saffron Sofrito:

  1. If you have a food processor, rough dice the onion, piquillo pepper, tomato and 1 large garlic clove and place it into the blender and process until smooth.  If not, mince the onion, pepper and garlic, and dice the tomato.
  2. Heat a small pot and put the olive oil into it and get it hot.  Add the vegetables from the previous step and saute for 5-8 minutes.  We want to get everything cooked, however it is hard to tell when everything is pureed.  I suggest smelling the pot when you start, you will smell the sharp scent of raw onions.  It is done sauteing when the smell has mellowed out and is almost sweet.
  3. Add the dry spices and let cook for 1 minute.  Add the wine and let cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, saffron and shrimp shells from the shrimp used for the final dish.
  4. Allow this to simmer and reduce by less than half.
  5. Strain the sofrito through a fine wire strainer.  Discard the pulp and reserve the stock.

Putting it together! 

Time to pull out the cast iron pan!  Make sure it is seasoned.  An average sized one will work but the larger or deeper size might fit everything a bit better.

  1. Slice the piquillo peppers into long strips and set aside.  Slice the chorizo sausage into circles about 1/4 inch thick, set aside.  Defoot the scallops by pulling off the little lump on the side of each one, discard the foot and set aside the scallop.  You have probably already taken the shell off of 6 of the shrimp,do the rest now, if you haven’t already.  
  2. Get the cast iron warmed up, add the olive or cooking oil to the pan, put all the chorizo in and cook it until it is almost getting crunchy.  Pull it out and set aside.  
  3. Cook the scallops and shrimp in the same pan, sprinkling them with a dash of salt and smoked paprika.  Don’t over cook the scallops and shrimp. Pull them out and set aside.
  4. Fill the pan with the cooked rice, place the pepper slices on top like the spokes of a wheel, scatter the chorizo, shrimp, scallops about, sprinkle with peas.
  5. The bottom of the pan might be getting pretty hot by now.  Pour the saffron sofrito around the edges of the cast iron and let it simmer.  If the rice was cold this will heat it up.  Allow this to cook until the bottom of the rice is getting crunchy, that is the best part!  You may need to spin the pan depending on weaker and hotter spots on your stovetop so it cooks evenly.
  6. Cut the lemon in half, one stem on each side, use a fork to gently remove any visible seeds. 
  7. Set the cast iron on the dinner table, remembering to use a coaster.  Squeeze the fresh lemon over the dish for a nice table side presentation.  Warn your guests about the hot pan, maybe even bring an oven mitt so they can scrape up the bottom without getting burned.