Calgary’s “Sharper Chef” series is written by food and drink aficionados, and features prominent chefs, brewers, vintners and distillers who share some of their finest, oftentimes secret, recipes. In this installment, chef de cuisine Peter Swarbrick of Calgary’s hottest new restaurant, Ox & Angela, shares his take on a Spanish staple: saffron paella with clams and peas.
Note: Recipe serves 10 – 12 people. Adjust ingredients accordingly for your portion.
1 kg bag of paella rice (preferably Bomba brand, but any risotto rice can be substituted)
250 ml extra virgin olive oil
250 ml diced piquillo peppers (can substitute canned roasted red peppers); drained
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp saffron
1 diced white onion
375 ml white wine
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 lbs fresh clams
3/4 lb frozen green peas
A Pan, a Pot, a Party
Swarbrick says to start by adding the water, wine, and salt into a large pot. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Next, grab your paella pan. You don’t have a paella pan? No worries, use a pan with a large cooking surface and at least a 2-3 inch lip. Add the olive oil (“It will seem like a lot of olive oil, but it’s needed to fry the rice,” Swarbrick says), diced peppers and garlic to the pan and stir on medium heat until the onions are translucent.
Rice, Rice, Baby
The difference between making paella and risotto, Swarbrick says, is the building/frying of the starch content. “With paella, you want to almost fry that starch and that stickiness off,” Swarbrick says. Add the rice to your pan a cook for five minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Next, grab the pot of hot liquid and pour it into the pan — and be ready. “It will start to boil immediately,” Swarbrick says. After a good stir, add the saffron and paprika, and stir again.
Socarrat of Success
For the next ten minutes, you’ll be supervising the dish and stirring very, very, occasionally, Swarbrick says. “Some people think they’re burning the rice, but in Spain they call it socarrat… the crunchy bits of rice at the bottom and you can scrape up with a spoon.” Paella lovers often enjoy the socarrat the most, Swarbrick says. After the ten minutes has passed, add the clams and peas and give it another good stir. Cook for another five minutes or so.
Paella to the People
Finally, remove and let rest for a few minutes, then serve the paella in the proper manner — right out of the pan. “The etiquette for eating paella is to divide it up, sort of like a pie, and each person gets a triangle wedge,” Swarbrick says. Ox & Angela usually garnishes their paella dishes with a drizzle of olive oil on top with a few fresh arugula leaves. For wine pairings, he recommends a white with a clean, crisp finish — like a Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc. “A Vidonia would be really nice, too.”
Image courtesy of Peter Swarbrick.