Whenever I travel somewhere new, I like to take a cooking class. Being able to recreate a moment of vacation at home is my ultimate souvenir. It’s a commitment between myself and a country where we become more than just a fling. The pages of the recipe packet the cooking school puts together is an opportunity to dive into an intimate history of food, conquest, connection, and values that can’t be communicated through whatever janky phrasebook I picked up. I pack away my little stapled print-out and carefully transport it across an ocean to rekindle that wanderlusty flame in my own kitchen when I need it. This recipe stems from a class that I signed up for in Barcelona, but didn’t get to attend (word to the wise: you can only eat ham 6 times a day for so many days…). My girlfriends who went were kind enough to give me what I really wanted out of it—the recipes. I’ve made it several times, but this go around I tried it with the HUGE, blasphemous omission of rice. As someone who is always looking to add more veggies (and who was befallen by a lack of them on my trip), I was curious how this would hold up with the veggie of the moment—cauliflower. Turns out, pretty dang well. With the extra special bonus of not feeling even a little guilty when you eat half the pan in a sitting. Which, for the record, is way easier on your system than eating a pound of jamón daily.
1 c chicken stock
1 c clam juice
8-10 saffron threads
6 T olive oil
6 large shrimp/prawns
4 small squid tubes, diced (these are the bodies, or mantles)
1 small onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 tomatoes, grated and tomato water saved
1 lb cauliflower rice
1 lb clams
Salt to taste
In a saucepan, combine the stock, clam juice, and saffron. Heat to a simmer and then reduce heat to keep warm.
Heat oil in a 14-inch paella pan or large skillet over medium heat. Saute the seafood until slightly browned. Set aside shrimp and leave the squid in the pan.
Add chopped onion and bell pepper and saute until onions begin to turn translucent and are very fragrant, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Stir in tomatoes and their water to deglaze. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the tomato water has evaporated.
Add the cauliflower rice and fry for 2-3 minutes. Then stir in the warmed stock with saffron, scraping to deglaze the pan again, if needed. Make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the pan and refrain from stirring it at this point.
Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook for 8 minutes. Add in the clams by pressing each one into the paella on its side to reach the remaining liquid. Cook 10 minutes more until they open. If any clams have failed to open, discard them. Remove from heat and add shrimp back on top. Let stand for 5 minutes and garnish with cilantro and lemon slices.