Fish based rice needs…..
This is different in many ways from chicken stock and in one fundamental way that has consequences. Fish stock made with fish bones and heads must not be cooked when it comes to the boil for more than say thirty minutes, after which it takes on a fishy flavour, not a good fishy flavour, but a nasty one. A consequence of the brief cooking time is the vegetables must be chopped finer to extract all their flavour in the shorter period of time it cooks. A shellfish stock, from shells of prawns, lobsters, crabs can be cooked longer and is closer to a chicken stock in its execution. Personally, whenever possible I would use a shellfish stock as I think they are superior, but I would equally never waste the good bones of an honourable fish when I find them in my possession.
Fish bones and a split head of a good white fish, such as turbot, seabass, hake etc… but not in my view an oily fish like mackerel. Wash well under cold water, taking care that the gills are removed and any offal and blood along the spine. Put the fish and some onion, celery, fennel, leek all chopped finely, a few white peppercorns, fennel seeds, a bay leaf or two, half a bottle of white wine, some parsley stalks in a pan and cover with cold water. Gently bring to the boil and very gently simmer, never a rolling boil, just a few bubbles finding their way through the ingredients is what you want. Skim the stock as with chicken stock, although it needs much less attention, replacing the lost liquid as you go along. After about twenty to thirty minutes taste, and if you feel you have the correct taste then let it sit for ten minutes and sieve. You will get quite a lot of sediment in a fish stock that will sit at the bottom. I don’t care to use this so just gently pour the stock into another vessel leaving the sediment to be thrown away.
Some prawn shells and heads you saved from a party, perhaps, or buy some prawns and peel then and use the prawns for a starter, keeping the shells for the stock. Likewise, lobster shells and heads, or crab shells. Some onion, celery, fennel, leek all chopped fairly finely, a few white peppercorns, fennel seeds, a bay leaf or two, half a bottle of white wine, some parsley stalks. First roast the shells in a baking tray with a little olive oil. Brown them, but if they burn even a little the game is up and the stock will be bitter, so don’t and if you do, throw away and start again. Don’t waste any more time on it. When roasted put them in a pan and deglaze the baking tray with some water or white wine and scrape all that good flavour into the stock pan with all the ingredients in a pan and cover with water. Now follow the same technique as the fish stock only this can be cooked for as long as you like to get the desired richness and flavour.
Paella de Marisco
It is worth pointing out that in Valencia the rice is everything. The seafood is there to impart flavour and is usually overcooked. I have modified this mainly as I became tired of people telling me that the fish is overcooked. As I say you do what is right for you, there is no objectivity in food.
Again simple. First get your basics together. Sorry to bang on about it, but stock is everything. Follow the recipe, never boil and never cook fish bones or heads in a stock for more than half an hour from when it gets to a very, very gentle simmer. One bubble at a time. If you follow these rules you cannot go wrong.
Then the base, the sofrito. For this I use onion, cooked long and slow, on a fierce heat to start with plenty of salt and then so slowly, until soft and sweet. Then add fresh or canned chopped tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes slowly.
Now the fun. What will you use. Prawns or langoustines for sure, although for my money a small langoustine may look good but it has no meat, so if you want to use these spend the extra and get the big bastards. Some firm white fish, my preference is monkfish, cut into large chunks on or off the bone, and a bivalve of some sort, mussels, clams, whatever tickles your fancy.
Heat paella to a moderate heat, add plenty of olive oil and add all the seasoned seafood except the bivalves. Give them colour all over and remove, they do not want to cook, just caramelise a little to add flavour. Add the rice (100 g per person) and stir in some of your onion and tomato base, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the correct amount of stock in relation to the amount of rice you are using and bring to the boil. Add the saffron, season and when the stock is reduced so it is just above the level of the rice pop in the oven, about five minutes from time add the seafood including the bi valves and a splash of fino until the rice is cooked.
Serve with lemon quarters, chopped parsley and some grilled pepper strips.