Paella rice with spider crab and peas
A recipe from Paella
Preparation: 40 minutes
Cooking: 17 minutes
Serves: 4 people
1 (or 2 small) spider crab, about 1.5kg (3¼lb)
100g (3½) spring onions (scallions), trimmed
100ml (scant ½ cup) olive oil
2 cloves garlic
3 tomatoes, halved, seeded and grated, skin discarded
1 teaspoon Spanish sweet smoked paprika
5 basil leaves, enclosed in a muslin (cheesecloth) bouquet garni bag
½ teaspoon saffron threads, toasted and pounded
200g (1½ cups) fresh shelled green peas
400g (2 cups) bomba or other shortgrain rice
For a moist texture, use a 50cm (20-inch) paella pan.
Preheat the barbecue or grill. First, clean the spider crab. Turn the crab on its back on a chopping board (cutting board) and plunge a sharp metal skewer or the tip of a very sharp knife through its head (just below its mouth parts) right through to the other side of the shell. Open the body and detach the legs (keeping them whole). Pick out all the meat from the shell and retrieve all the liquid within. Discard the tail and inedible parts (the feathery gills and the small, leathery stomach sac). Cut the central part of the body into two halves, and set all the edible parts of the crab aside. Cut the white part of the spring onions (scallions) into fine strips and set aside the green part.
Make sure that the paella pan is completely level to ensure that the paella cooks evenly. Heat the olive oil in the pan over very high heat. Sauté the garlic and chopped spring onions (scallions). Push to the edge of the pan and add the grated tomato. Reduce the heat by removing some of the embers under the pan or adjusting the trivet or grill rack so that the pan is further away from the heat source. Cook the tomato gently, stirring, until thickened and reduced.
Add the paprika, stir through and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 1 litre (4¼ cups) water, bring to a boil and cook over very high heat for 1 minute. Add the bouquet garni bag containing the basil leaves. Next, add the reserved liquid from inside the crab and the meat from its body, then sprinkle in the saffron, bring to a boil and continue boiling for 4–5 minutes.
Add the peas, bring to a boil once more and sprinkle the rice as evenly as possible all over the liquid in the pan. Taste and season with salt, bearing in mind that the fumet should be a little bland at this stage because the crab will give it a far stronger flavour. Spread out all the ingredients, including the crab, evenly in the pan: the crab legs and shell should be in the centre, flesh side down. Remove and discard the bag of basil leaves. When the rice begins to rise to the surface, position the pan just far enough from the heat source to keep the contents at a very gentle simmer.
Finish cooking the rice, allowing all the fumet remaining 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 hot water over the surface of the rice and continue cooking until the rice is tender. Meanwhile, cut the green part of the spring onions into very fine rounds. Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle over the spring onions and serve immediately.