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Art: Shrimp Paella by Artist Deanne Flouton
Rice is a staple in the Mediterranean as it forms the base to dozens of dishes along with olive oil, garlic and parsley, other essential ingredients to everyday cooking. Seafood paella is a popular dish and can be made with a variety of shellfish (shrimp, clams, lobster, mussels) and other seafood like squid and sepia.

Foods of the Mediterranean are a favorite of mine and I enjoy preparing them. A simple "shrimp only" paella with arborio rice, shellfish/saffron infused stock and broad beans, topped with garlic grilled shrimp is always a hit in my household and with friends. It's not difficult to make, but the key ingredient to a tasty paella is the base.

First, make a hearty stock from shrimp heads and discarded lobster shells (available from your local fish market), simmered with chopped tomato, onion, red pepper, garlic, parsley, saffron and a bit of smokey Spanish paprika and/or hot pepper, if desired. Precise amounts of each are not necessary--the richer the stock, the better the overall flavor. Cater to your personal tastes.

After simmering stock for an hour or so, press the shrimp heads and other ingredients with a large spoon or fork to release the contents, which may contain roe as well as small amounts of shrimp, the key to a tasty paella. Continue to simmer stock for a while longer, then remove the shells and heads and any other large items. A few quarts or more of rich hot stock are needed.

Purchase large shrimp with heads on (if you can get them) and sautée in paella pan or large heavy frying pan with olive oil and set aside. In the same skillet, which contains the juices of the shrimp, add a few cloves of garlic, either crushed or chopped, sautée lightly, then add 1-2 cups of arborio (short-grain) rice, and stir to coat. Two cups of rice in a 14" diameter pan should serve 4-6 people, depending upon portions. Then add several ladles of hot stock. Do not stir from this point on. As rice absorbs the stock, add more and shake the pan to keep contents even. Rice will take on golden to deep orange color depending upon the amount of stock ingredients and in about 15-20 minutes should be nearly done.

At this point you may add something for color if you wish, a handful of frozen peas or pre-cooked flat string beans, which is the case here. Or nothing. Pile the warm shrimp on top of rice, cover with foil or lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with wedges of lemon, chopped parsley and crusty bread on the side along with a big green salad. A dry white wine such as an Albariño or Sauvignon Blanc or a Spanish sparkling wine known as "cava" (champagne) makes a perfect accompaniment. Enjoy!

Note: Whole shrimp heads discarded by those who do not enjoying sucking the juices, as is the custom in the Mediterranean, may be frozen and used to make a base for a future paella.

Result was digitally photographed and enhanced with filter effects to make the shrimp stand out.


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