Garlic Shrimp with Vegetable Paella

Were I a celebrity chef I might well call this “deconstructed paella;” but I’m not so I won’t. I have simply combined a classic Spanish tapa with a classic Spanish rice dish. But there is a twist. To add color and flavor I have added Tobago seasoning pepper to the rice. These peppers taste a lot like habaneros that are of the same species but without most of the heat—if you remember to remove the seeds and placenta (membrane). The red onion is also not traditionally Spanish either but I did not have any Spanish onions on hand. All of the vegetables were frozen; I generally avoid fresh vegetables in the winter because, having been trucked or flown in from warmer climes, they usually have little flavor (to say nothing of their carbon footprint!). The best, of course, are the ones I bought at the local farmers’ market and froze myself. One ingredient that may be unfamiliar is pimentón, or Spanish smoked paprika. You may not find it in your local supermarket but it is readily available online. It comes in picante (hot) and dolce (sweet) varieties. For the garlic shrimp I recommend the hot but if all you can find is the sweet just add a bit of cayenne. You could use ordinary paprika but the result will just not be the same. Note that cooking paella the traditional way—uncovered on the stovetop—is tricky. Unless you have mastered the technique I suggest that if you are having company you cover it with foil and bake in 350° oven instead.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces frozen green beans
  • ½ tsp. saffron threads
  • 2 Tbsp. hot water
  • 8 large (16-20 per pound) shrimp
  • Olive oil, preferably Spanish (see instructions)
  • ½ Spanish or red onion, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • 5 large cloves garlic, 2 chopped and 3 sliced
  • 2 Tobago seasoning peppers, seeded (optional)
  • ½ cup medium or short grain rice
  • 1½ cup hot water (or stock)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. dry sherry
  • 1 tsp. pimentón picante

Method

Thaw the green beans is cold water then blanch in boiling water for about 1 minute. Refresh in cold water, drain, and set aside.

Put the saffron into a small bowl and cover with the 2 Tbsp. of hot water and set aside to bloom.

Peel and devein the shrimp leaving the tail on. Rinse, dry, and set aside.

Heat a small paella pan or fry pan over medium-low heat and pour in enough oil to barely cover the bottom. When the oil is hot add the onion and fry, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until it begins to turn golden, another 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes. Put in the peppers and stir for another minute. Pour on half of the water, then the saffron, and finally use the other half of the water to rinse the saffron bowl into the rice. Season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to bring to a boil then set over medium-low heat, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Fold in the green beans and continue to cook with preparing the shrimp.

Heat a non-reactive, preferable stainless steel, frying pan over medium high heat. Add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom then put in the crushed red pepper and sliced garlic. Cook for 2 minutes or until very fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes per side. Pour in the lemon juice and sherry then turn up the heat to boil off most of the moisture. Sprinkle on the pimento then season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn onto the paella and server immediately.

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