Paella, the traditional Spanish dish from Valencia

Paella is a traditional Spanish dish from Valencia. It is a rice dish that can have meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables and is characterized by its use of saffron to give it a yellow color and unique flavor. There are three main types of paella:

  • Valencian paella/paella valenciana: rice, green vegetables, rabbit, chicken, or duck, snails, beans, and seasoning.
  • Seafood paella/paella de marisco: rice, seafood, and seasoning.
  • Mixed paella/paella mixta: combination of seafood, meat, vegetables, beans, and seasoning.

How to prepare the best paella

Before beginning preparations, it’s important to ask, “How many people will be eating?”Once you answer that, you can decide what size and type kind of pan is needed.

  • The Paella Pan: Paella pans, sometimes called paelleras are made especially for the job. They are round, open, metal pans, which are approximately 2-2.5 inches deep (5-6 cm). These pans spread the heat and withstand cooking over hot coals. Paella pans can be made of carbon steel, stainless steel or enamel and have two handles. The material, shape and shallow depth of the pans are what make them perfect for cooking rice, which is the focus of the paella. Paella pans are readily available in sizes from a 9-inch pan that makes 1-2 servings, and costs about 10 Euro.
  • Casual Ingredients: 
    • Spice Mix for chicken, recipe follows
    • 1 (3-pound) frying chicken, cut into 10 pieces
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 Spanish chorizo sausages, thickly sliced
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1 Spanish onion, diced
    • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
    • Bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, reserve some for garnish
    • 1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
    • 4 cups short grain Spanish rice
    • 6 cups water, warm
    • Generous pinch saffron threads
    • 1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
    • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
    • 2 lobster tails
    • 1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
    • Lemon wedges, for serving
    • Chicken Spice mix: 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Preparation: Before starting rub the spice mix all over the chicken and marinate chicken for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5. Season the chicken pieces and dust with flour. Heat a little olive oil in a large deep pan and fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides. Place the pieces on a baking tray and into the oven for 20 minutes. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove the chicken from pan and reserve. In the same pan, make a sofrito by sauteing the onions, garlic, and parsley. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in water and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Add chicken, chorizo, and saffron. Add the clams and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan, add the lobster tails. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it’s perfect. Cook’s note: The ideal paella has a toasted rice bottom called socarrat. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Finally, add the cooked chicken and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and a wedge of lemon.Garnish with peas, parsley and lemon wedges.
  • Drink: Paella is a complex dish, with many ingredients and layers of flavors, so the range of wines and beers that complement it is wide. Traditionally, the Spanish accompany Paella with a rosé or a crisp Spanish white wine such as albariňo. Lovers of sparkling wines could try a good Spanish cava and red wine fans might favor a light Spanish rioja.
  • Bon appetit / ¡Buen provecho!
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