Weekend Project: Impress Friends With This Versatile Seafood Paella
Add mussels, squid, shrimp, fish, clams, scallops, or any combo you can think up.
Socarrat is the crispiest part of paella—the caramelized edges of rice and broth infused with the flavors of proteins and veggies and condensed into a single bite. It requires firm scraping to peel off from the paella pan and enjoy, but it’s arguably the best part. Lolo Manso, the chef and owner of three Socarrat Paella Bars across Manhattan, wants nothing more than everyone to enjoy the simple pleasure of crispy paella edges. .
The first Socarrat opened in 2008. Manso wanted to capture the excitement and brightness that comes with the food he grew up eating, and didn’t see any Spanish restaurants that he felt lived up to the task—so he decided to open one himself. “Paella is the most representative of our foods,” Manso explains. “You can do it with five, ten, 20 people. That’s the special thing about paella. It’s for the whole family.”
Growing up, Manso’s parents had a small bar in Spain that served wine and tapas, so he was surrounded by food from an early age. At 16 he left home, became a merchant mariner, and sailed across the world for a decade. By 27, Manso had landed in the United States. “I like adventure,” he says, grinning.
He ended up in Utah, helping a friend who had opened their own Spanish and Italian restaurant, which is where he really fell in love with cooking. “Many times in life, you choose things,” Manso says. “Other times, things choose you. In this case, cooking chose me—and I’m very happy.”
With Socarrat, Manso is channeling the coast of Spain in New York. His restaurant serves fresh seafood, traditional tapas, and the crown jewel, paella—seven different variations of the rice-based dish. There’s arroz negro, dyed a galaxy black thanks to a generous splash of squid ink. There’s fideuá, which replaces the traditional rice in paella with noodles. Manso even has a bacon, egg, and cheese paella as tribute to New York City, which is served during weekend brunches and prepared with a tomato sofrito.
But it’s the paella de pescado y marisco that is perfect for summer. The medley of seafood—scallops, shrimp, white fish, clams, squid, and mussels—celebrates the season and bounty that’s harvested from our oceans. If you can’t make the trip to Socarrat, Manso still encourages everyone at home to try their hand at making paella.
“Don’t get nervous. Follow the recipe and have a glass of wine when you cook,” he suggests. “When you’re happy, things end up better. That’s it.” You don’t need an expensive paella pan—any large, heavy fry pan should do, as long as it’s oven safe. And the best part about paella is that when making it from home, each pan can be customized with any toppings. If you don’t like seafood, try chicken or beef. Paella can easily be made vegetarian-friendly by opting for veggie stock and fresh produce.
“At the end of the day, it’s almost a kind of stew. You put the ingredients, the broth, and you cook everything,” Manso says. “Just be careful with the flames.”
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Paella de Pescado Y Marisco Recipe
• 4 ounces rice
• 16 ounces fish broth
• 2 teaspoon olive oil
• 1 tomato
• 2 ounces onion
• 1 garlic clove
• 3 scallops
• 8 shrimps
• 5 ounces white fish
• 3 ounces calamari
• 3 clams
• 6 mussels
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. Dice onion and tomato, mince the garlic.
2. Clean and slice calamari, peel shrimp or buy them peeled. Dice white fish, slice scallops in half, wash clams and mussels.
3. Place all the ingredients in a separate bowl
4. On the medium heat burner, place the paella pan and add olive oil, chopped tomato, onion and garlic. Cook them slowly for 8-10 minutes, then add calamari and rice, and cook for 2 more minutes.
5. Add fish broth and turn the stove to high.
6. Preheat the oven at 450 degrees.
7. Keep stirring the mix until the broth evaporates by 75%.
8. Place the pan in the oven, cook for 15-20 minutes. Check every 7 minutes and rotate the pan in the oven.
9. When the rice is getting a golden color around the edges of the pan, and the broth has mostly evaporated, the pan is ready to be taken out from the oven.
10. Place the seafood on top of rice, put it back in the oven for another 5-6 min to cook the seafood. Make sure that the mussels and clams are cooked, and their shells are open.
11. Take out the pan from the oven and drizzle some olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
12. Let the paella rest for a few min before serving. You can top some fresh peas or some sliced piquillo pepper for color.