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Betsy Block

Lobster Paella


by Jos Andres of Washington, D.C.'s Jaleo

1 small Maine lobster (1 to 1  pounds; or about 3/4 pound precooked)

2 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces fresh squid, cut into small pieces

cup sofrito

1 garlic clove, finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)

3  cups fish stock (I'm not giving the recipe because enough is enough - I really recommend buying some)

1 pinch Spanish saffron threads

1 tablespoon salt

1  cups Spanish Bomba or Calasparra rice or, if you can't find either, or Arborio if you can't. *See below for a Note about the rice.


If you're using live lobster:
Using a very sharp knife, separate the lobster head from the tail. Cut the lobster head in half, putting the blade between the eyes. Slice through the head cleanly, then cut it into quarters, and cut the claws in half. Cut the tail into 6 medallions.

In a paella pan over high heat, sear the lobster medallions in the olive oil for 1 minute. (Compromise Grrl just used a large shallow frying pan with curved sides. The point here is to maximize the amount of rice touching the bottom of the pan.) Remove them from the pan and set them aside.

If you're using cooked lobster, start here:

Reserve the cooked lobster for later.

Add the squid to the pan and sear for 15 seconds. Add the sofrito, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 minutes.

Pour in the fish stock, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Crush the saffron and add it to the pan. Season with salt. (Make sure it's just a little bit salty; the rice will balance out the saltiness.)

Add the rice, taking care not to dump it in a pile - spread it evenly around the pan. Cook for 5 minutes over high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. You'll see the rice floating around the pan at this stage. If it's not, the mixture is too dry and you should add another  cup of stock or water.

If you're using the just-killed version, place the lobster head, claws and medallions on top (if you're using precooked, though, still keep it on the side) and reduce the heat to low. After this point, never put your finger or anything else in the rice. (Of course all I want to do now is put my finger in the rice, but I won't, because "If I do, I will break the natural film that forms on top of the paella and the rice will cook unevenly.") Maintaining a slow boil, cook for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

At this point, while the rice was bubbling away, I sauted the cooked lobster in a separate pan with some unsalted butter and a touch of saffron just until it was warmed through.

Set the paella aside for 3 minutes, add in the cooked lobster if necessary, then serve right away.


*About the rice: Although I really wanted to try the Bomba or Calasparra, guess which one I ended up using? If you, too, use Arborio, the chef says to make sure to check the box for the right amount of stock as each rice is slightly different. The Arborio I used didn't say, but 3  cups of stock was just right.