Paella Dinner Party

Easy Paella Dinner

This is a very easy dinner to prepare and serve. We do the wine tasting in the kitchen while I prepare the Shrimp Paella. Everyone seems to enjoy watching the paella being made.

Wine Tasting of three (3) Oregon pinot noir wines

First Course
Gourmet Crab DipGourmet Crab Dip
1 pound cooked crab meat
1 (8-ounces) package cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
Few drops hot sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
A pinch of Cayenne pepper
Coarse salt
Baguette bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If using fresh crab meat, carefully clean the crab meat of any shells or cartilage.

In a medium-size bowl, combine cream cheese and sour cream until smooth and no lumps appears. Stir in garlic, lemon juice, horseradish, hot sauce, parmesan cheese, Cayenne pepper, and salt. Fold in crab meat until well mixed.

Place the crab dip in an ungreased small 2-cup baking dish. When ready to serve, bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until top is bubbly and just starting to turn brown. Serve with baguette bread slices.

NOTE: This dip can be prepared ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated until ready to bake. I also double this recipe during the holiday season and divide into two separate baking dishes. I then freeze one for later use. To use the frozen crab dip, remove from freezer and let thaw in the refrigerator before baking.

Makes approximately 1 cup.

Second Course
Avocado on the Half Shell

Jim Johnson of Mission Viejom, California sent me his favorite recipe:

I was stationed in Chile with the Army from 1968 to 1971. The best avocado appetizer I ever had was in Chile where the name for avocado is “palta”.

A half of an avocado is filled with the southern hemisphere equivalent of king crab “cangrejo” (but you could use any crab meat), and then lightly covered with thousand islands dressing.

Preparing Half Shells:

To pit an avocado, cut it lengthwise all the way around (working around the pit) and gently twist the two halves apart. Tap the blade of a heavy knife into the pit, and twist gently to release the pit from the flesh. You may use half-shells with or without skins (this is a matter of taste). To peel skin off avocado, place cut-side down, in palm of hand. Strip or pare the skin.

Third Course (Main Course):
Shrimp Paella

A good bottle of wine, salad, and bread are all you need to make a terrific dinner with this wonderful paella. You will need a somewhat deep cooking dish, large cast-iron skillet, or the traditional paella pan (paellera), a round flat pan with two handles. The size of the dish or pan depends on the number of portions you wish to make. The amounts of the ingredients are relative and it does not matter if you use more of one and less of another or chose not to use some at all. The vital thing is the preparation of the rice so that it comes out loose.

Shrimp Paella

1 to 1 1/2 pounds raw extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined*
Coarse salt
2 1/4 cups bottled clam juice or fish broth
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon crumbled thread saffron
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup uncooked Spanish or Arborio short-grain rice**
2 large tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained (optional)
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
Lemon wedges

* To add additional flavor, place the shells of the shrimp in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer over low heat approximately 7 to 10 minutes. remove from heat and strain the broth; discarding shells. Add shrimp broth to clam broth to equal 2 1/4 cups.

** Don’t wash the rice, as it needs its outer coating of starch.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the shelled shrimp all over with coarse salt; let sit 15 minutes. NOTE: The salt helps bring back the briny taste of the sea that most seafood, especially frozen seafood, tends to lose.

HINT: Have all ingredients chopped and measured before beginning the final cooking of the paella. It is a quick cooking dish that must have all ingredients ready to go.

In a large pan over medium-heat heat, heat the clam juice or fish broth, wine, and saffron; reduce heat to low and keep broth hot (not boiling).

In a large paella pan or heavy cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.

Add onion and red bell pepper; stir to blend and cook 3 minutes or until slightly softened.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in garlic and rice and continue stirring until garlic is fragrant and the rice is evenly coated with oil, about 1 minute. NOTE: Coating the rice with the oil before adding liquid helps keep the rice grains to stay separated.

Stir in tomatoes, paprika, and salt.

Stir in hot clam/saffron broth mixture.

Return to heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer (stirring and rotating the pan occasionally) mixture 10 to 15 minutes or until rice is no longer soupy but sufficient liquid remains to continue cooking the rice in the oven.

Stir in shrimp, artichokes hearts, and peas

Transfer paella pan to the oven and cook, uncovered, about 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is almost al dente and until almost all liquid is absorbed. NOTE: Never cook paella until the rice is completely done. If you do, it will be mushy by the time it reaches the table. Remove from the oven when the rice grains are no longer hard but still have more bite than you want and a crust forms around the edge of the pan.

Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil, and let sit 5 to 10 minutes or until the rice is cooked to taste. NOTE: Paella must rest after being removed from the oven, during which time the final cooking takes place.

To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley and arrange lemon wedges around the top of the paella. Serve immediately. To eat, sprinkle lemon juice over paella.

NOTE: Always bring the paella to the table in its pan for your guests to admire before serving. Traditionally, paella is eaten communally with everyone sitting around the pan and taking the rice directly from the pan with a spoon. Although you are not likely to serve it this way, do leave the paella pan at the center of the table so your family or guests can help themselves to more.

Makes 4 servings.

Hints and Tips:

If the paella is almost al dente and ready to be removed from the oven, but still seems to have liquid, return it to the top of the stove over high heat. Without stirring, heat until the liquid has evaporated. Then remove from heat and cover the rice and let it rest before serving.

If the paella seems dry before the rice is almost al dente, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of water and allow to cook in the oven 2 to 3 minutes longer. Then remove from oven and cover the rice and let it rest before serving.

Homemade Sourdough Bread (we cook bread daily so come in and grab a fresh loaf)

Comments from cooks:

Thanks for posting some great recipes! My friends and I get together every Wednesday night (round robin style) and cook each other dinner. Last night I whipped up the Easy Paella Dinner. I made the crab dip and the shrimp paella. Everything came out great. My friends were really blown away. Thanks again! – Ed Hoboken, NJ (3/22/07)