Paella: Octavio Tellez’s go-to comfort food

I am from southwest Mexico City and moved to Texas in 2008. I grew up enjoying Paella, one of my favorite dishes that reminds me of those years surrounded by family and friends. Cooking Paella is a ceremony, usually cooked by the men of the family and outdoors, just like Texans do barbecue. My dad’s Paella was amazing. I never got to cook it until I found myself living in Tyler and missing those wonderful flavors.

One day I called my dad and asked him to guide me through the whole process. I remember walking through the aisles of Brookshires on Rice Road, finding the ingredients while having my dad on the phone. I never knew that that was going to be one of the last recipe phone calls I had with him. He had been diagnosed with cancer and passed away a few months later.

I am by no means a Paella expert, but dads recipe is pretty easy, fun to prepare and delicious, especially while sipping on a very cold beer while remembering those wonderful times with dad.

Recipe for paella

Puree (makes1-1/2 cup):

1/4 white onion

1/2 Red bell pepper, roasted and peeled

1/2 Yellow bell pepper, roasted and peeled

2 cloves of garlic

2 Roma tomatoes, peeled

Extra Virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp saffron powder

1/8 tsp paprika

Puree all the ingredients in a food processor, adding olive oil as needed; set aside.

Paella for six to eight people:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 cubed, boneless chicken thighs (or 1 breast)

4 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced (Palacios is recommended and available at Fresh)

4 ounces small scallops

4 ounces 40-ct shrimp, peeled and uncooked

4 ounces calamari

10 each mussels or clams

 6 large, head-on tiger or U12 shrimp

12 asparagus sticks

0.5 grams saffron threads (available at Fresh)

3 cups Arborio rice

6 cups seafood stock

Infuse the seafood stock with the saffron threads by simmering for a few minutes on low heat; reserve. Add olive oil and a pinch of salt to Paella (actually this is the name of the pan) and put it on medium-high heat. Just before it starts to smoke, add the chicken; a couple minutes later the chorizo. When the chicken is golden brown, add the scallops and calamari for a couple minutes. Add the rice, mix very well. A couple minutes later, add 1-1/2 cups of the puree; sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Then pour the seafood stock previously infused with saffron, mix and adjust salt to taste. Increase the heat to reduce the liquid until the level of moisture comes down to half; then reduce to low heat and add as decoration the peeled shrimp, head-on shrimp, shells and asparagus (here you can get creative and add other types of shellfish or seafood).

Let the paella simmer, allowing the seafood to cook and the rice to form a golden brown crust on the bottom, known as socarrat. Once the liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat and let it rest. Be sure to pay special attention here to avoid burning your socarrat. Enjoy with a freshly baked baguette (Sola Bread Co. has the best!)

Octavio Tellez is an industrial engineer. Most of his career has been in supply chain. When he moved to Texas, he spent a few years in the food industry and was one of the original founders of Strada Caffè. Octavio is currently the purchasing manager at Hood Packaging Corporation in Tyler.

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