I took a paella cooking class with a big group of about 20. We went to the most famous (and oldest) market in Barcelona called la Boqueria to buy fresh seafood for our meal. If you haven’t been there, this place is bursting with action from not only the vendors but also the people. It can get extremely crowded so watch your bags. You’ll come across rows and rows of fresh fruits/juices, tapas restaurants, seafood, jamon Iberico (Iberian Ham) shops, spices, empanadas, etc. It’s an excellent place if you want to try a bit of everything, or just immerse yourself in the energy of such a lively place.
I’m pretty obsessed with squid ink dishes, from rice to pasta, this addition just adds such a richness and umami flavor that it’s hard for me to go back to eating regular paella. This was actually one of the first meals I had in Barcelona at a restaurant called Colom. I felt awkward in the beginning as paella is typically made for at least 2 people, and dining solo was not something I was accustomed to. But once the piping hot dish arrived, I honestly forgot about everything and everyone else around me. I won’t lie, its not the prettiest looking dish, but what it lacks in aesthetics it made up in flavor.
6 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb shrimp
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp smoked paprika, divided
1 lb shellfish of choice (I used baby clams but you can substitute with mussels or even kielbasa if you like, just note the kielbasa may alter the flavor of the squid ink)
Lobster tail (optional)
1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice
3 tbsp of mushroom seasoning mixed with 3 cups water (you can find at most asian supermarkets, this is my go to for quick broth or bouillon substitute) or 3 cups broth of choice (seafood, vegetable, or chicken would work)
1 tbsp squid ink (you can order this online or check out your local Italian/Spanish specialty store, they also sell this at Eataly)
1 cup of dry white wine
1 medium yellow onion
1 cup of frozen peas and carrots
1 medium bell pepper
4 wedges of lemon to serve
parsley to garnish
Heat up 3 tbsp of olive oil in a large shallow pan (or a paella pan if you have it) on medium heat, add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp and 1/2 of the smoked paprika. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side, set aside, don’t worry if it’s not cooked all the way through, it will finish cooking later. In the same pan, add the rest of the olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, then add peas and carrots, clams (or mussels or kielbasa), cook for additional 5 minutes. Add rice, the rest of the smoked paprika, the broth, squid ink, and wine. Mix well until the squid ink is evenly distributed. Bring to boil and reduce heat to low-medium for 15 minutes. Then add lobster tail if using, and arrange the shrimp depending on how you want it to be displayed (if you mix the shrimp in then it’ll just turn black and won’t give you any color contrast when completed). Cook for 10 minutes, then add (or arrange) bell pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.