Cooking up some sunshine: Seafood & Chorizo Paella

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A recent trip to Florida reminded me that warmth and sunshine do exist! I couldn’t get enough of the gulf’s seafood offerings and decided that even though I’m back from vacation and Boston’s weather is dreary, making paella brings a glimpse of Summer into the kitchen. The flavors of this Spanish rice dish, that’s often made beach-side over an open flame, tango with zesty citrus, spicy paprika chorizo and briny seafood.

Seafood and Chorizo Paella

Ingredients
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 links fresh chorizo sausage, casings removed
10 unpeeled jumbo shrimp
4 to 5 ounces cleaned calamari, cut into thin rings and bodies cut into quarters
½ onion, cut into medium dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into medium dice
3 cups uncooked Spanish bomba rice, Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
3 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup lemon juice, divided
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup minced parsley
10 to 12 littleneck clams, scrubbed clean
10 to 12 mussels, debearded and scrubbed clean
1 cup frozen green peas
Lemon wedges for garnish

Directions
Combine the hot water with the saffron threads and allow to steep for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a very large, oven-proof saute pan, over medium-high heat.

Crumble in the fresh chorizo and brown thoroughly, about 12 minutes, breaking up large pieces with wooden spoon or potato masher. Transfer the chorizo crumble with a slotted spoon to a medium bowl.

Add the shrimp to the flavored oil left in the pan and sear for 1 minute on each side. The shrimp should not be cooked through at this point. Remove the shrimp to a plate and set aside for later.

Add the calamari to the remaining oil and saute for 1 minute, or until the calamari turns opaque white. Remove to the shrimp plate and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium-low and sweat the diced onion and red bell pepper for 10 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the chorizo sausage.
Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the saute pan then sprinkle in the short-grain rice. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes to toast the rice. Add in the minced garlic and stir for 10 to 15 seconds to reduce the pungent raw flavor.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, lemon juice, and diced tomatoes with juice. Stir to combine then simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Mix in the saffron water, the chorizo sausage crumbles and diced vegetables, the chicken broth, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and parsley. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes over medium-low heat.

Cover the pan tightly with a layer of parchment paper and then aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and open the foil. Nestle in the shrimp, calamari, littleneck clams, and mussels. Sprinkle on the green peas then cover the pan and place back in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the shellfish opens.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the paella to rest for 10 minutes, covered. If any shells remain closed, discard them, then serve twith lemon wedges.

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