Rice is by far my favorite carb of all time. Italian risotto, Chinese fried rice, Japanese sushi rice, and Spanish paella all come to mind when I think of delicious rice. And of those four types of rice dishes I named, the only one I’ve yet to make is the latter. It’s mainly because I don’t have a paella pan to cook paella in. From what I understand, paella is supposed to be cooked in a special paella pan, or a thin metal pan that is both wide and shallow, which allows heat to be conducted easily and makes that nice “soccarat” or burnt rice crust at the bottom of the dish. But I told myself I shouldn’t let that stop me, so I decided to just cook paella in my cast iron skillet and I persevered on.
At first when I was thinking of what type of paella I wanted to make, I thought to myself, “Go big or go home!” I absolutely love black squid ink in seafood dishes. Black squid ink has a rich, thick, salty flavor that is as enticing as it is mysterious. I’ve eaten it in pasta and risotto, so I thought why not paella? I recalled hearing about paella negra or black paella in passing. It seemed like a good idea. However, after committing to the idea of making black squid ink paella, I read online that there is no such thing as paella negra! (at least according to Wikipedia) Arros negre (rice cooked with squid ink to give its ingredients that nice black color), which isn’t even considered a paella, is commonly mistaken as paella negra!
In spite of this recently acquired knowledge I decided to go ahead and call what I made paella negra. I thought it fitting to describe a dish with a misnomer title when it’s (1) not being prepared in a proper pan and (2) is being cooked with somewhat nontraditional ingredients anyway. So there you have it: my first time cooking paella and I’ve prepared something that isn’t even paella and misnamed it regardless. It’s experiences like these that make cooking and learning about food so much fun!
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 14.5 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
- 1 cup bomba rice
- 2 cups seafood stock (use 2 parts chicken stock 1 part clam juice as an alternative if you can’t find seafood stock)
- 2 teaspoons squid or cuttlefish ink
- 1/4 pound whole prawns
- 1/2 pound manila clams (clams should be alive, meaning they close when you tap or touch them; any dead clams should be discarded)
- 2 cups sea asparagus, steamed or blanched
- olive oil
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in paella pan (or cast iron skillet in my case) for 10 minutes on medium low heat. Add tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes so that flavors meld. This is the “sofrito” or base for the paella.
- Add rice to the pan, stirring for about a minute. Stir ink into stock so that it is fully dissolved and stock is black. Pour stock into pan. Stir to evenly distribute, and then allow to cook without stirring for approximately 30-40 minutes or until broth is absorbed and rice is cooked.
- Add prawns and clams on top of the paella and cover with lid for the last 5 minutes of cooking, so that the seafood steams. Clams should be open and prawns nice and pink.
- In a separate bowl toss sea asparagus with the juice of 1-2 lemon wedges. Reserve remaining lemon wedges for garnish. Serve paella negra with sea asparagus and enjoy!