Whenever I see recipes for paella, I’m simultaneously attracted (by the idea of getting to eat it, naturally!) and repelled (by the idea of fussy recipes that insist you have an open fire outdoors and a real paella pan the size of a wagonwheel). Don’t get me wrong—I’ll go for the fire-cooked paella if ever I can. But for a casual weekend dinner, maybe with a friend or two over to justify the lobster, I’ll take a one-hour paella like this one, that is luxurious and satisfying without needing to have a pedigree.
The wine to have with this is Nisia Verdejo, which shines a spotlight on the seawater flavors of the lobster and the earthy perfume of the saffron.
2 large pinches of Spanish saffron threads
4 lobster tails
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cups Spanish rice or short grain rice, soaked in water for 15 minutes, then drained
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp aleppo pepper flakes
2 large Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
6 oz French green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Place the saffron in 1 cup water and set aside to soak.
In a large pot, bring 6 cups water to a rolling boil. Add the lobster tails and boil very briefly (1 to 2 minutes) until pink. Turn off the heat. Remove the lobster tails with a pair of tongs. Do not discard the lobster cooking water. When the lobster is cool enough to handle, remove the shells and cut the meat into large chunks.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat just until it shimmers, then add the chopped onions. Saute the onions for 2 minutes, then add the rice and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and the lobster cooking water. Stir in the saffron and its soaking liquid, the paprika, cayenne, aleppo pepper, and ½ tsp salt. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and green beans. Bring to a boil and let the liquid reduce slightly, then cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
Uncover the skillet and spread the shrimp over the rice, pushing them into the rice slightly. If there is no water on the bottom of the pan, add ½ cup or so. Cover and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the shrimp turns pink. Finally, add the cooked lobster chunks and cover the skillet for another 2 to 3 minutes until the lobster is warmed through. Garnish with parsley and serve.