I first made this dish during the very end of my senior year of high school (ages and ages ago) after happening on a random recipe of Paella on Mediterrasian. There was a night that my parents went out for dinner, and my friend and I jumped on the opportunity to lord over the kitchen. After hours of cutting, crying (from the onions), and haphazard stirring, I finally chanced upon a dish that actually did not turn out half bad. That was nothing, however, to my astonishment when my mom, trying out our leftovers, actually took a great liking to it. I mean, Dad will literally eat anything I give him, but when my viciously, brutally honest mom compliments my cooking, that's when I know I've hit the jackpot.
I've made a few changes to the original recipe. I know Mediterrasian is catered toward healthier cooking in general (Yes!) so this dish may not be exactly authentic. For one thing, I don't even have a proper paella pan, so that means no burnt rice at the bottom - unless I want to have my mom screaming at me for ruining her nonstick cookware. And for another, we didn't want to buy a whole pack of Spanish rice, so we just used my extremely healthy multi-colored long grain rice mix. As for the other changes...well, trust me. After much trial and error, they are really for the best.
-2 red onions, minced
-1 green bell pepper, minced
-1 red bell pepper, minced
-2 ripe tomatoes, minced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-2 tsp paprika
-2 tbsp minced fresh parsley (or 1 tbsp dried)
-6 large oyster mushrooms, minced (NOT traditional - we just had extras on hand)
-16 Raw shrimp (or more)
-2 cuttlefish, chopped into 1-inch pieces
-8 frozen, precooked mussels (or more)
-1.5 cups Spanish rice, basmati rice, etc. (any kind of long-grain hard rice), washed and soaked
-1.5 cups Chicken broth
-Pinch of saffron threads
-Chicken powder to taste
-Salt and pepper
-Lemon wedges to serve
1. To make the sofrito: Heat a large, flat-bottom pan with olive oil and 3 cloves garlic until you can smell it. Add chopped onions and parsley and stirfry until soft (about 8 minutes). Then add the tomatoes and cook until tomato juice has evaporated and turned into jam. Remove from pan.
2. Saute the bell peppers in olive oil for about 6 minutes. Add in the sofrito and oyster mushrooms.
3. Add the rice and stir around for 1 minute.
4. Add some of the chicken broth, saffron, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, and leave uncovered for about 10 minutes. Note: don't add all the broth at once! You never really know how much liquid you need, and if you end up with too much, you'll have porridge. Just keep adding a little more as you cook, until the rice is soft.
5. Meanwhile, in another pan, stirfry the shrimp and cuttlefish in garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Put aside.
6. Turn the paella to medium heat, cover, and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring continuously and adding broth in small amounts.
7. Push the squid, shrimp, and mussels through the paella, stirring around for full coverage.
8. Cover and let rest at low heat for about 5-10 minutes.
9. Serve with lemon wedges and fresh parsley!