I did it! I did it! I finally cooked an Arroz Negro or Black Paella that turned out right. Still a bit on the dark grey side (but now I know how much bottled squid ink to put) but with superb flavor and just the right amount of “stuff” — that means a LOT of “stuff”… Regular readers will know that I have struggled with Arroz Negro before and in my quest to do an all-natural one, I have failed miserably on the color front. The first time I tried it, some Spanish diplomats were our guests and they were polite and all but clearly I felt I had missed the mark. I tried it a second time using reader comments to guide me but it still came out grey though it tasted good. It just so happens that the same Spanish diplomats, who are by now good friends, were again our unplanned guests to lunch last Sunday when I decided a third attempt at Arroz Negro. This third attempt I was armed with a massive bottle of squid ink to bolster previous color issues… Everything worked brilliantly, and I would have rated this a 9.25/10.00 paella; definitely a keeper recipe.
Carefully prepare all of your ingredients before you start your charcoal fire. First, make about 10-12 cups of fish stock as described in the previous post. I find this step essential and critical to the right flavor of the final product. Next, chop up 1-2 white onions, and julienne some fresh red capsicum or pimientos. While this dish is traditionally made with just squid, I like to go over the top on â€œtoppingsâ€ not only because it looks and tastes good, but I want this to be a complete mealâ€¦ Throw in a nice green salad and it is perfect lunchtime fare at the beach. Prepare some medium sized prawns (I used ½ kilo), ½ kilo of small squid, 1 kilo of alimango or alimasag (crabs), some good clams if you have them and I have even used small lobsters before (but not in this latest version). In a small saucepan, place a half cup of the fish broth and add about 3-4 tablespoons of bottled squid ink or natural ink if you can gauge the right amount confidently and stir, then set asideâ€¦ Start a nice hot fire, place your paellera on the grill, add 4-5 tablespoons or more of olive oil, saute the onions, add a kilo of bomba rice or paella rice from the Callasparra region of Spain, add the diluted squid ink and mix rapidly until the rice is coated but not burned (all of these first steps happen in less than 3 minutes) and add about 10 cups of fish broth and stir. Adjust the ink at this point if you think you want it blacker. But don’t overdo the ink as it is quite salty and can overpower, rather than balance, the flavors.
Try to distribute the rice grains evenly on the pan and stop stirring it. Add salt to taste though sometimes the ink is salty enough. Add the crab pieces then five minutes later add the squid, shrimp, clams, etc. Add sliced peppers on top of the paella. Cover and let simmer for a total of about 23-25 minutes from start to finish. Add some broth if it looks like it is drying out too fast. You know itâ€™s done if the rice is puffed and grains from the top have a soft to medium firm bite. You can take it off the flames and cover with newspaper to steam it another 10 minutes before serving. You MUST serve this with an aioli. You can make a garlic mayonnaise from scratch or in a pinch, doctor some commercial mayonnaise by popping it into a mini food processor, adding chopped garlic, some lemon juice and a little olive oil and salt and blitz it till mixed. Bring the paella to the table, decorate with lemon wedges and advise your guests to take heaping spoonfuls of the rice and seafood, then mix in aioli and lemon juice and listen to the ooohs and aaahs, sit back and enjoy a wonderful, delicious Arroz Negro with aioli!