Monday, June 28, 2010

Seafood Paella (Page 349)

RECIPE #1174

  • Date: Monday, June 7, 2010 -- 6:30pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chefs: Wes and Matty
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Dave, and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My special gentleman's family likes seafood, so I figured our visit with them was a good opportunity to make this huge seafood dish. First on the ingredient list: two live lobsters, halved lengthwise. The Cook's Note at the end of the recipe says to ask your fishmonger to halve the lobsters for you. So, there I was, talking not to a fishmonger exactly but rather to the woman standing behind the lobster tank at the neighborhood grocery store in suburban Ohio. Our conversation went like this:

Me: "I would like to buy two lobsters."
Fish Lady: "OK."
Me: "Would it be possible to get them cut in half lengthwise?"
(Long pause)
Fish Lady: "Those lobsters are alive."
Me: "Yes, I know. But I would like to have them cut in half. Can you do that?"
Fish Lady: "I don't think we do that here." (turns to a butcher hacking up some beef with a cleaver) "This lady would like her lobsters cut in half. Do we do that here?"
(Long Pause)
Butcher Man: "We can't do that. Those lobsters are alive."

At that point, I assured them that it was fine, I would do it myself, and I took my live whole lobsters away in a box.

And I would have done it myself, except that my brother-in-law Wes eagerly volunteered for the job. Only Wes, my special gentleman, Deniz, Karen, and I were home when the lobster slaughter occurred. Karen left the room as soon as the lobsters emerged from their box -- she was not interested in witnessing this adventure. Deniz and my special gentleman watched from a distance. Wes, however, was not scared of those lobsters. He grabbed a lobster and put the knife straight through its head:

And continued down the length of the body, cutting it in half.

I had done this task only once before, many years ago. And as I remembered it, the lobsters I halved that day stopped moving pretty much as soon as the knife went through their heads. With these lobsters though, that was not the case. What you can't appreciate in the picture below is that those lobster halves were still moving as they lay there on the platter, completely severed.

Indeed the next step was to twist off the tails and the claws, and even once the claws were completely severed from the rest of the lobster, they continued to move. Crazy! Once the lobsters had been reduced to just a pile of tail halves and claws the dish somehow seemed much less daunting. Thanks to Wes for his assistance!

I set a 17-inch paella pan (which was a wedding gift from Grace -- Thank you Grace!!) across two burners. I cooked the lobster tails and claws for a couple minutes in some olive oil, then removed them from the pan. I threw some peeled and deveined shrimp seasoned with sea salt into the pan for a few minutes, then removed them. I cut some squid into rings, seasoned them with sea salt, and stir fried them for a few minutes. I next stir fried some slices of green and red bell pepper. I added garlic which I had minced to a paste with sea salt. I then added chopped tomatoes and paprika, and then rice. (Note: The recipe called for either Spanish paella rice or Arborio. I couldn't find paella rice anywhere in suburban Ohio, so I went with Arborio and it worked just fine.) I next added hot fish stock and a mixture of white wine, lemon juice, and crumbled saffron threads. I added some parsley and a bay leaf and cooked until the liquid thickened and reduced sufficiently. Then I stirred in the shrimp, the squid, some chopped scallions, green peas, black pepper, and sea salt. I arrange the lobster pieces and some mussels on top and baked uncovered until the rice was not-quite-done. I removed the pan from the oven, covered it with foil, and let it steam for another 10 minutes. I sprinkled with parsley and served the paella with the lemon alioli.

This recipe was quite a project, but it turned out well. The paella was flavorful with a nice balance of vegetables, rice, and seafood. Several members of my special gentleman's family pointed out that it wasn't too dry, as paella sometimes is. The seafood was cooked the right amount, as was the rice. And although initially it seemed odd to serve the dish with a mayonnaise-based sauce, the alioli really worked well with the paella. This recipe produced a tasty, beautiful dish that was a crowd-pleaser. It even got a few, "This is better than the paella we had in Spain," comments. It is not the dish to make if you are looking for something quick to put on the table, but if you are looking for a little adventure with lobsters and a tasty dish, I would recommend it.

This recipe isn't online.


mikehill said...

That's a really beautiful dish. I'm jealous!

GilaB said...

My question is why dropping live lobsters into boiling water is totally OK, but cutting them in half renders you a scary crazy person.

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

LOL--that's too funny about the folks at the store. I've had to halve live lobsters too and man, it creeps me out. I know it's just nerves firing for them to keep twitching like that but yikes!

Teena said...

Yeah, dropping lobsters in boiling water makes me a little skittish, but chopping them in half live is somehow much more hands-on! The net effect is the same, but it seems more gruesome when you have to stick a knife through their heads!

DCDaniel said...

Put the live lobsters in the freezer for about 20 minutes but don't freeze them. As they are cold blooded animals their body slows down enough that they feel nothing. Works for boiling them too.