Paella is a beautiful Spanish rice dish that melds itself perfectly with Alaska’s wild fish and game. Spanish Paella – Alaska Style is great for holidays and special occasions. In Spain, family and friends gather around the dinner table, break bread, drink wine, and enjoy meals for hours. So once you’re done cooking; turn on Spanish guitar music, uncork a bottle of wine, enjoy dinner and let the night slip away with your loved ones.
One of the best parts of cooking is finding your inspiration. Our inspiration for Alaska Style Spanish Paella came from a winter vacation to Spain and Turkey. The food was so amazing we had to try duplicating our favorite dishes with an Alaskan flair.
You can utilize the best of Alaska’s proteins to make a spectacular Spanish paella with deep rich flavors. We are using Copper River Red Salmon, Gulf of Alaska Halibut and Lingcod, Cook Inlet Razor Clams, Nelchina Herd Caribou Sausage, Kodiak Scallops, and Prince William Sound Spot Shrimp. Do not limit yourself on these ingredients. Be creative, use what you have, and make it your own!
Fishing and hunting are a couple of the benefits to living in Alaska. These readily available proteins are fun to harvest, but can also be found in most seafood markets. We do our share of fishing and hunting, but we still had to run to Captain Jacks for shrimp and scallops. I don’t recommend passing on the razor clams, their flavor and juice is of key importance to the dish. If you haven’t gone clam digging recently they can be found at 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage.
Rice is the next key ingredient to Spanish paella. You have a few choices when it comes to the type of rice to use. Traditionally Bomba, Calasparra, and Arborio are used. We like organic short grain brown rice to keep things a little healthier plus it tastes great in paella. Each type of rice cooks differently with brown rice requiring more liquids and longer cooking time, see below for white rice adjustments.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and Spanish paella should not be made without saffron. Do not skip this ingredient, you will only need a pinch and a little can last for years. If you don’t want to splurge on saffron get a pinch from a friend and invite them over for paella dinner! We found our saffron and many other exotic spices at the historic Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. It was an amazing experience, check it out on our travel vlog.
Before we get started you need to prepare the saffron. The morning before your meal, pour boiling water into a shot glass and add a pinch (1/4 – 1/2 tsp) of saffron threads. Saffron is very powerful, a little goes a long way and too much leaves a metallic flavor. Let the saffron water sit all day to extract the flavor. We learned this technique from our friend’s mom while in Istanbul.
Pick your proteins: This is a rough guide, be flexible and use what you have!
- 1 lb. Salmon (boneless/skinless)
- 1 lb Halibut (boneless/skinless)
- 1 lb Lingcod or Rockfish (boneless/skinless)
- 1/2 lb Caribou Polish Sausage Links (Generally it comes precooked. Cut lengthwise, then slice to 1/4″ pieces)
- 1 lb Razor Clams (cleaned/chopped to 1″ pieces, save the clam juice for later)
- 1/2 – 1 lb Scallops
- 1/2 – 1 lb Shrimp (raw, whole or shell-on)
- 1 Medium Onion (chopped)
- 1 Medium Onion (peeled and left whole)
- 1 Shallot (chopped)
- 6 Green Onions (chopped)
- 4 tbsp Garlic (chopped)
- 2 Roasted Red Peppers (drained, found in the jarred olive section)
- 1 cup Fresh Parsley (chopped, reserve some for garnish)
- 2 Bay Leaves (crumbled)
- 1 cup Peas (fresh or thawed frozen)
- 1 Lemon (sliced for garnish)
Spices and Remaining Ingredients:
- Pinch of Saffron (1/4 – 1/2 tsp, prepared as mentioned above)
- 1/3 tsp Smoked Spanish Paprika (regular paprika will work but there is a difference in flavor)
- 6 1/2 cups strong chicken broth (we like the paste, it is easily made stronger or you can slowly reduce down regular broth to increase the strength)
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil (used throughout preparation)
- 3/4 cup Dry White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice and my Rebecca’s favorite)
Let’s start cooking! [The following steps take place in the same large oven-safe skillet, this helps to develop the flavors]
- Prepare the broth: In the large skillet, add the broth, saffron water, paprika, and whole onion, cut onion in half if necessary. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the onion and measure out 6 cups of broth mixture, set it aside for later.
- Save any left over broth, if you need a little more in the final step you will be glad you have it. You can also freeze it and add it to the next pot of rice for a little saffron flair!
- Fish: Add olive oil to lightly cover bottom of the pan, then over medium-high heat cook the halibut, lingcod, and salmon. Season very lightly with a little salt and pepper while cooking. This can be done in steps if all the fish can’t fit in the skillet. Cook to medium rare or until there is a nice sear on the meat. It will finish cooking in the final step.
- Sausage: Add a little olive oil and over medium-high heat, add the diced sausage and cook to a nice sear, about 5 minutes.
- Keep sausage in the skillet for the next step.
- Veggies: Add a little olive oil and over medium-high heat, add the roasted red peppers, chopped onion, shallot, green onion, and garlic to the sausage. Saute until onions are translucent about 5 minutes.
- Shrimp: Add a little olive oil and over medium-high heat, cook the whole raw shrimp until they start to turn pink, about 3 minutes.
- Remove, set in same dish as the fish.
- Scallops: Add a little olive oil and over medium-high heat, cook the scallops. All you want is a quick sear on the scallops, about 90 seconds on each side.
- Remove, set in the same dish as fish and shrimp.
- Rice: Add a little olive oil, add the uncooked rice/chopped parsley/crumbled bay leaves. Stir to coat with oil.
- In the same skillet, add the 6 cups of broth mixture and clam juice to the rice, bring to a boil, cover and cook at a medium boil for 40 minutes, or until most of broth has been absorbed and rice is al dente.
- Tip: If the rice is cooking faster than the broth is reducing, you can remove the cover to balance things out. Likewise, add more broth if it is reducing faster than the rice is cooking.
- Stir in wine, sausage/veggie mixture, peas, parsley. Return to boil and remove from heat. Salt to taste.
- Stir in raw clams. Add cooked salmon, halibut, lingcod, scallops, shrimp, by burying them in the rice mixture.
- Place the oven-safe skillet into the oven and bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Now is a great time to wash those bowls and dishes from the preparation and have your first (or second) glass of the Sauvignon Blanc.
- Once the rice is tender and broth has been absorbed, remove skillet from the oven and loosely cover with foil or the lid and leave it cracked for a little air flow.
- Garnish with lemon wedges and chopped parsley.
- Enjoy your meal with friends and family, along with fresh bread and your favorite white wine.
Tips and other thoughts:
- If using one of the white rices’ use these measurements instead:
- Use 5 1/2 cups of broth in final steps.
- Use 1/2 cup of wine
- Cover and simmer rice for 15-20 minutes, or until most of broth is absorbed and rice is al dente.
- Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until broth is absorbed and rice is tender.
- Plan on about 3 hours for preparation and cooking time.
- When combined with fresh bread and a salad this recipe serves 6-8 people.
- Traditionally Spanish paella is prepared in a special pan. If you have a paella pan we recommend using it. The cooking process changes, but adds an awesome smokey flavor when you slightly burn the bottom of the pan.
- You can also use a large dutch oven for the final step. Make sure your dutch oven is preheated in the oven before adding the final mixture. Place your proteins on the bottom, pour the rice/broth over the top, and bake as directed.
- Gelato or Churros are popular Spanish desserts. If you are looking to make a traditional Spanish Dessert, here’s some inspiration. These can pair perfectly with your newly created Spanish paella with an Alaskan twist!
Please visit His & Hers Alaska to follow our travels in Alaska and abroad. We would like to thank The Alaska Life for allowing us to share our recipe on your blog.