Paella rice with crayfish, lemongrass and asparagus
A recipe from Paella
Preparation: 50 minutes
Cooking: 17 minutes
Serves: 6 people
100ml (scant ½ cup) olive oil
200g (7oz) spring onions (scallions), trimmed
100g (3½oz) garlic shoots, trimmed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bunches green asparagus, trimmed and cut into fine strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into fine strips
3 large, ripe tomatoes, halved, seeded and grated, skin discarded
1 teaspoon Spanish sweet smoked paprika
600g (3 cups) bomba or other shortgrain rice
½ teaspoon saffron threads, toasted and pounded salt and pepper
For the crayfish fumet:
2kg (4½lb) large crayfish
100ml (scant ½ cup) olive oil
1 carrot, cut into fine strips
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bouquet garni (garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, thyme)
1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, bruised and sliced into thin rounds
finely grated zest of ¼ lime
10g (¼oz) fresh ginger, about 3mm (1 ⅛ inch) long, peeled and cut into very thin slices
For a moist texture, use a 60cm (24-inch) paella pan.
Clean the crayfish. Pull the central tail flipper, twisting it slightly as you do so. The intestine can now be pulled out, attached to the flipper. Select and set aside the 6 largest crayfish whole, then separate the heads from the tails of the remaining crayfish and and set the tails aside. Put the flavourings – lemongrass, lime zest and ginger slices – into a muslin (cheesecloth) bouquet garni bag, and secure tightly.
Make the fumet. Heat the olive oil in the paella pan and sauté the reserved crayfish heads over very high heat. When they have browned, add the carrot, celery, onion and bouquet garni with herbs. Pour in sufficient water to cover, bring to a boil, add the bouquet garni bag of flavourings and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Carefully strain the fumet through a finemesh sieve; discard the solids. Measure 1.2 litres (5 cups) of the fumet and keep hot.
To make the paella, wash the paella pan and dry with paper towels. Make sure that the pan is completely level to ensure that the paella cooks evenly. Heat the olive oil in the pan over very high heat or position the pan as close as possible to the heat source. Sauté the 6 reserved crayfish and the crayfish tails, then remove and set aside. Sauté the spring onions (scallions), garlic shoots and cloves, asparagus and green bell pepper for a few minutes until softened but not browned; push these ingredients to the side of the pan. Cook the grated tomato, stirring, until reduced and thickened. Stir through the other ingredients in the pan until well mixed. Add the paprika and cook briefly for a few seconds more; take care not to burn. Pour in the hot fumet and bring to a boil over very high heat. Allow to boil for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the rice, and then the saffron, spreading it out evenly in the paella pan. Return to a boil, taste and season with salt if needed.
Distribute all the ingredients evenly in the pan, then arrange the crayfish tails and the 6 whole crayfish in the centre. After 5 minutes, reduce the heat by removing some embers from under the pan or raising the trivet or grill rack so that the pan is further away from the heat source. When the rice starts to rise to the surface of the liquid, reduce the heat under the pan so that the liquid remains at a very gentle simmer.
Finish cooking the rice, allowing all the remaining fumet in the pan to evaporate. Taste to check whether the rice is cooked: it should be tender but still very slightly firm to the bite. If it is a little too firm, cover the paella with a clean, damp dish towel for 2–3 minutes to finish cooking. If it is much too firm, sprinkle a few tablespoons of very hot water over the surface of the rice and wait until the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 3 minutes before serving.