Paella—Spain’s saffron-hued rice and seafood dish—comes in infinite, subtle variations. The savory version served at San Antonio’s Babylon Grill (910 S. Alamo) is not only quite handsome, with red bell peppers and green peas set against the golden rice, but also delicious. Restaurant co-owner Veronica Prida keeps the recipe light for nineties tastes, concentrating on seafood and chicken and omitting the usual sausage. She suggests preparing the rice and chicken ahead of time; the shrimp, mussels, clams, and scallops can be quick-cooked at the last minute and then served at their peak of freshness and flavor.
2/3 cup uncooked rice
1/3 cup diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon safflower or other light oil
1 1/3 cup water
3 or 4 strands saffron
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, sauté rice and onion in oil until onion is translucent. In another saucepan, bring water and saffron to a boil. Add saffron water to rice and onion, cover, and cook over low heat, 20 to 25 minutes or until water is absorbed. Add salt and pepper to taste; set aside. (Alternatively, prepare two cups cooked saffron rice using a packaged mix.)
Seafood, Chicken, and Vegetables
2 pieces chicken, white or dark meat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 cups seafood or chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen green peas
6 clams, in shell
8 mussels, in shell
6 shrimp (21–25 count)
6 sea scallops (20–30 count)
2 whole langostines, if available
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast chicken pieces about 30 minutes, or until done. Remove skin and set aside, keeping warm.
Place olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook bell pepper, onion, and garlic over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Add stock and wine and bring to boil. Reduce heat immediately and add peas and clams. Simmer about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer about 3 more minutes, or until clam and mussel shells pop open. Add chicken and cook just long enough to heat thoroughly.
To serve, place the rice in a warm medium-sized cast-iron skillet and ladle seafood-and-chicken mixture over it, including enough liquid to make quite moist but not soupy. Serves 2 generously.