Well, it has been a long time coming, but I finally am able to post the long awaited Paella article. There is so much to say about Paella that it's impossible to know where to begin. I will start by saying the Paella pictured above, is the one I made in Arizona for Felicia Sorensen, world renown Chef of Sri Lankin cuisine.
Today, Paella is found on the menus of the higher priced restaurants and a serving can command a price tag of $18 to $30. What is ironic is that it was traditionally a peasant dish that consisted of various ingredients that were available in the area and could even include left over items. In Spain the variations of the dish were and still are influenced by where it's made. The regions where there is pork and chicken will feature those meats prominently. If there is an abundance of lamb or rabbit, those items will be included. They all have 3 things in common however, they all include rice, saffron, and some type of seafood or meat.
The original Paella is known as the Valencian Paella. Valencians hold their recipe dear to their heart and have insisted that only the ingredients called for in their recipe can be used for the authentic Valencian rice dish. Among these are chicken, rice, duck, snails, butter beans, artichoke, various other beans, and spices including of course saffron. It is in the region of Valencia that Paella was born during the 18th Century. Over time, the entire Iberian Penninsula adopted it as an uncrowned national dish; however, this dish most traditionally identifies Valencia.
Although there are Paellas that contain only meats or just seafood, the more well known throughout the world is that which is called a mixed Paella, which includes various meats and seafood. One can go crazy with the various ingredients and sometimes too many is too much for a good conclusion. Remember, each ingredient is competing with one another in the flavor category, so it's smart to limit your choices and allow the saffron aroma to be the King. Everything else will fall into place and you will enjoy what is considered by many as one of the great rice dishes of the world.
The Paella that I will make with you today is of the "mixed" variety. We will use pork and chicken in the meat category and shrimp, scallops, fresh clams, and mussels in the seafood category. To tie it all together, we will use the Spanish saussage called Chorizo. Two things you cannot substitute are Chorizo and Saffron, no exceptions! Do not use Italian saussage or it will not be Paella. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about. The only problem that I tend to run up against when making this wonderful dish, is that I tend to call for larger quantities of the ingredients that can fit in my pan. So please keep this in mind when making yours. I will try to give you approximate quantities for a party of 8 to 10 people which is a good average. This is a dish that you want a larger group as it is a very festive dish. You can adjust things accordingly to your number of guests.
Before we start, I want to talk about rice for a minute. Rice and getting it right is extremely important. If you screw up the rice, you will most likely screw up your Paella. Certain things you want to know are stay away from quick cook rice (the 5 minute Uncle Bens stuff), stay away from long grain rice which will absorb the moisture too quickly and thereby become soggy, and finally, don't let your rice get soggy ! With all that in mind, you want to look for a short and hearty grain rice. Those are the best to use when making Paella. Among the best choices is Bomba rice. It can be found in most supermarkets or specialty food stores. Whole Foods has a great selection of grains and I am sure they probably have several rice varieties that work well with Paella. But please, don't try to short cut through this one, it just isn't worth it and since you really want to make this a hit in your family the first time around, get the right rice.
There's something else that I want to talk about at this time. This dish may appear very difficult to make, but I assure you that it's not the difficulty, but the time consumption and the attention to detail that is necessary. There are no special measurements or wierd baking instructions and no need for foreign dictionaries. In that respect, this is a very simple dish to make. But I"m not kidding when I say if you want to serve this by 6 PM, shop for your fresh ingredients early in the morning around 9 AM, do your prep work by 1 PM, and start cooking by 3 PM. I may be stretching this a bit, but I just want to convey to you that it's not a one hour meal. So fall in love with everything about it, the ingredients, the smells and aromas, and put on some Spanish music. Here is our shopping list for this version of Paella: