Espelette Salt in Paella

Espelette Salt Kicks Up An Already Fantastic Seafood And Chicken Paella

Katherine Loffreto
Paella is one of those dishes that sticks with you. You’ll likely remember the first time you tasted it for the rest of your life. Powerful flavors of spices, seafood, and roasted meats. The texture of the rice. The smell of the toasted starches and grilled proteins. It really is an extraordinary experience. The paella is a very old recipe, dating back hundreds of years. Paella was originally farmers' and farm laborers' food, cooked by the workers over a wood fire for the lunchtime meal. It was made with rice, plus whatever was to hand around the rice fields and countryside: tomatoes, onions and snails, with a few beans added for flavor and texture.
Rabbit or duck might also have been added, and for special occasions, chicken plus a touch of saffron for an extra special color and flavor. Paella was also traditionally eaten straight from the pan in which it was cooked with each person using his own wooden spoon. Little by little, as 'Valencian rice' became more widely available, paella recipes were adapted with new variations appearing. With Valencia being on the coast, it is no surprise that various types of seafood crept into the recipes over the generations. Now paella is the generic name of 200 or so distinctive rice dishes or ‘arroces’ from the Valencia region let alone other parts of Spain and the rest of the world. To this day a "true" Paella Valenciana has no seafood but a mixture of chicken, rabbit and snails with green and white beans.
Our Espelette Pepper Salt really kicks the entire dish up a notch or two. The Espelette Pepper has a storied past. It’s cultivated in the French commune of Espelette - in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, a department in the southwest corner of France. It takes its name from the Pyrenees Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. It covers the French Basque country and the Béarn. In 2000 the pepper was classified as an AOC product – which is a special French certification typically reserved for very important wines, cheeses, and butters. It is based on the concept of terroir and a form of geographic protectionism.
For this particular recipe, we’re breaking with tradition by sautéing the shrimp and steaming the mussels and clams before adding them to the paella during the last few minutes of cooking; this keeps the seafood moist and delicious. Give it a try!

• 4 ounces fresh chorizo, casings removed
• 1 small onion, thinly sliced
• 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
• 1 cup arborio rice
• Pinch of saffron threads dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
• 1 1/2 cups water
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
• 1/4 cup dry white wine
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
• 1/2 pound cockles, scrubbed and rinsed
• 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, preferably dark meat (8 ounces)
• 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a 10-inch paella pan or ovenproof skillet, cook the chorizo over moderate heat, breaking it up with a spoon, until some of the fat is rendered and the chorizo is browned, 4 minutes.
Add the onion and garlic and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened and just beginning to brown, 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, rice, saffron with its liquid and the 1 1/2 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
Cover and simmer over low heat, without stirring, until the rice is al dente and the liquid is absorbed, 15 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add them to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, until pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to the rice. Discard the oil.
Wipe out the skillet. Pour in the wine and lemon juice. Add the mussels and cockles, cover and cook, shaking the skillet, until the mussels open, about 3 minutes. Pour the mussels and cockles and their cooking liquid over the rice.
Stir the cooked chicken into the rice. Cover and cook in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the paella is just heated through. Garnish with the parsley and scallion, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and serve. Garnish the entire dish with whole flakes of Espelette Pepper Salt. Your guests will be wowed!
When it comes to working with this treasured seasoning, try to think out of the box. The peppers come from France, and the salt is from Spain - the salt finds a welcome home in just about any preparation you can dream up. That is to say, push the boundaries a bit. This European sourced product can just as easily be used in preparations based in Asian, African, and South American cooking. Be creative, and let your imagination run wild!