Although paellas are traditionally cooked in a pan that is called a paellera, yes, you can cook paella in a cast-iron skillet.
Due to the cast-iron’s high heat retention, a delicious crispy layer of rice will form on the bottom.
Ingredients for seafood paella
- 500g monkfish, cut into chunks
- 500g mussels, cleaned
- 24 raw shell-on king prawns
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- ½ 400g can of chopped tomatoes (the rest can be used for the stock)
- 500g of paella rice
- 100g frozen peas
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- A pinch of saffron
- Parsley leaves to garnish
- Fresh lemon wedges
Ingredients for the stock
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 chicken stock cube
- ½ 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
Equipment you will need
- A chopping board
- A sharp knife
- A cast-iron skillet
- Measuring jug
- A large pan
Peel the prawns
To begin, you will need to peel and de-vein the prawns, reserving the heads and shells. Once you’ve done this, return the prawns to the refrigerator so that they are chilled.
Make the stock
To make the stock you will need to begin by heating the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Begin by sauteing the onion for a few minutes or until it is translucent. Then, add the garlic and cook for another two minutes, before adding half the can of tomatoes. Add the reserved prawn shells and heads and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Pour in 2 liters of water before adding the chicken stock cube, being careful to stir until the stock cube has fully dissolved. Bring the stock to a boil, then leave it to simmer for 30 minutes. Once your stock has simmered, leave it to cool for a few minutes before blending it in batches. Once you have blended the stock, strain it through a sieve, add it to a measuring jug, and set it aside until you’re ready to use it.
Brown the monkfish
To brown the monkfish, begin by heating the oil in your cast-iron skillet. Place your chopped monkfish in the skillets and brown the monkfish for a few minutes on each side, then remove the fish from the skillet and set it aside for now.
Saute the onion
Add your chopped onion to the cast iron skillet and saute it for a few minutes or until it turns translucent.
Add the rice, garlic, and spices to the skillet
Next, you’re going to stir in the rice and cook for around 30 seconds to toast it. Add the finely chopped garlic cloves, along with the cayenne pepper, paprika, and saffron. Cook for another 30 seconds or so, being careful to not let anything burn.
Add the tomatoes and stock
You are then going to need to stir in the rest of your can of chopped tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are combined with the rest of the ingredients, slowly begin to pour in around 1.5 liters of the fish stock that you made earlier.
Bring the skillet to a boil, and then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook, without stirring, for about 10 minutes.
Add the fish
After around 10 minutes of cooking time, you’re going to need to add the fish next. Add the monkfish on top of the rice, along with the mussels, prawns, and peas. If the rice starts to dry out before the prawns are cooked, you can top it up with a bit more hot stock, half a cup at a time.
Cover the skillet
Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and cook on a low heat for another 10-15 minutes until the mussels are open and the prawns are cooked all the way through. Make sure that you discard any mussels that have failed to open.
Be patient and wait for the stock to fully evaporate
Patiently wait for the stock to evaporate. When the stock in the paella pan fully evaporates, you will hear a faint cracking from the bottom of the pan as the crispy bottom, or socarrat, starts to form.
Remove the pan from the heat
Once the paella is ready, remove the pan from the heat and garnish with parsley!
Chop lemon wedges
Chop some fresh lemon wedges and serve! You should have a delicious paella.
Do not stir your rice
The main thing to remember when you are making paella is to not stir the rice as it cooks. The rice in paella must be left alone after you pour the stock over it. The method of paella is to prevent the starch from seeping out of the rice so that when the dish is cooked, all of the grains are nicely separated.
If you are constantly stirring your rice as it cooks, the texture of your paella will be wrong, as you are essentially making risotto. It’s important to not stir it once the stock is added to ensure the delicious, light-golden crust or socarrat forms on the base.
Use plenty of oil
A tip when cooking paella is that the dish needs to be cooked with a good amount of oil. The oil helps keep the starchy rice grains separate and carries the flavors through the dish, too. It also helps your rice from sticking to the pan as it cooks.
To test whether the paella is cooked, you will need to taste a little rice from the edge of the pan, as this rice will be cooked last as it’s the furthest away from the heat in the center. When the paella is ready, the rice should be tender yet firm to the bite or al dente, the rice should not be sloppy. If it’s not quite cooked, you will need to pour over a little more hot stock or boiling water until the rice is perfectly cooked.