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Paella!

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Nice weather is coming and my order saffron is in. I usually make an outdoor paella a couple of times a year. But this time I want to prepare myself properly.

In the past I have used a large 14" pan with sloped sides to make my paella outside. Not ideal...it's not the correct pan. But it worked for the time being. This year I would like to order myself a paella pan fit for 7-10 servings.

In the past I would, loosely, follow something like this recipe, from LaTienda. I would alter mine to fit available vegetables, meats, etc. that I happened to have in the house.

Two things that I haven't been able to find locally are bomba rice and Spanish chorizo. I'll probably end up ordering some bomba rice just to see how it differs in taste/texture/aroma, but I'd really like to find the Spanish chorizo! (I'm going to the Cubs home opener...which means I'll be picking up some Iberico ham...which means I'll look for the chorizo at Fox & Obel.)


We've covered the fact that I don't have the proper equipment and that I use an (admittedly) loose translation of the ingredients list. But before we go on to talk about what makes an authentic home cooked Paella (rabbit, snails etc) or a nice meat/seafood variation...I suppose I should describe my heat source.

For heat I usually use my Weber Kettle with lump charcoals underneath. I've got the little flip-wings in my grate so it allows me a little access to adjust my coals during cooking. I have also attempted to cook paella on the stove top in the winter time, with less than stellar results.

I've come to the conclusion that paella is one of those dishes that's better made at home than ordered in a restaurant (much like Ossobuco). It's a difficult thing to pick out one item that stands out to me as my favorite in paella. It's more so the "everything" of the dish that makes it sooooo tasty. (now to contradict myself) But I would say tht my favorite thing about paella is when that "everything" gets into the rice! Oh it's sooooo good!


I would love to listen to anything and everything you can tell me about your paella knowledge or experiences.


THANKS! (yes I know I was shouting ;)

dan
post #2 of 19
Paella isn't a recipe, or even five different recipes. It's a way of cooking that more than anything else involves a particular pan shape. Paellas are one of a classe of rice dishes called arrozes, very popular in Spanish cooking. Arroz con pollo (cooked in a regular cazuela, usually) is another.

There's no particularly authentic ingredient list for paella, or inauthentic either for that matter -- as long as you stay within reasonable bounds. Probably most cook at home paellas don't use a huge number of different proteins. It's worth saying, the mix of chicken, shellfish, sausage, etc., which most Americans think of as "classic Paella Valenciana" isn't at all typical. I'm not saying it's not "authentic" in the sense that it didn't originate in Valencia -- but it's mostly an American thing.

The whole "lots of different proteins" comes down to what you like. Think of Chinese style fried rice. Some people like "House Special" with pork, chicken, shrimp and vegetables, while some people like only one or two things. By and large, Spaniards take the simpler approach. But nowhere is it written ... not even in Spanish.

Modern Spanish homes often have little propane fire rings, something like the ring from a turkey fryer, set on a tripod, which allow the paella to be cooked tableside. They also like the little propane burners we see everywhere here, for tableside cooking and service. In addition to saying it's usually cooked over a regular flame, it also says something about paella's party nature. It's not really a family dish. It certainly can be cooked over a regular fire on a stove top, and probably most often is. I can't begin to guess why you have a problem. I'd like to heare more about your methods both on the stove top and in the kettle.

You're going to need at least a 20" paelleria for the group you're talking about. That's going to look very cool on a 22-1/2" Weber Kettle. I'd be worried about it choking the kettle though, and would want to try a test run before the party when there was still time to develop an alternative strategy.

A comforting fact is that really cheap paellerias (paella pans) are the best. Plain (not stainless) steel with dimples and plain metal handles is ideal.

20" is about double the area of the 14" pan you were using. Double the volume too, since pan side height is constant. IMO, 14" is barely adequate for four diners, and by extrapolation, so is 20" for eight. The pan size suggests to me that you're piling the paella pretty high -- which may explain some of the problems on the stove top and success in the kettle.

I find it helpful to cook any large pieces of meat beyond where most recipes suggest. Simply browning is not enough. The time required to cook them, chicken pieces in particular, means everything else overcooks. Anything which releases a lot of moisture during the browning process I do in a separate pan. So as to start the aromatics and rice in oil, rather than water.

Bomba is by far the best rice. It's not just timing but texture and the amount of moisture. Stay away from arborio, which you'll often see recommended as the second choice. CalRose is better. In fact, CalRose is better for risotto than arborio, but that's a different story. Even a typical American basmati like "Texmati" is better than arborio for paella. If you can't get bomba, get a medium grain CalRose of the best quality you can find.

There are an infinite number of paella combinations and I urge you not to get caught in the small group which fit US preconceptions. My three favorite paellas are: duck, sausage and green olive; assorted shellfish with or without sausage -- but not with chicken!; and chicken and artichoke, cooked and finished with lemon.

Hope this helps,
BDL
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post #3 of 19
After writing the above post, I thought I'd take a look at paella pans on the interwebs. First site I hit was: PaellaPans.com

You'll see very similar advice there, along with some recipes that closely tracked a couple of my favorites. Oh yes, and good prices on carbon pans as well.

Take a look,
BDL
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post #4 of 19
I usually use my wok when cooking paella for the family. Never done a really big batch though.
post #5 of 19
Last post, I promise.

Okay, so I looked at the recipe at La Tienda. Not very Spanish.

Set aside the long ingredient list with the mishmosh of "surf, turf, smokehouse, and barnyard" proteins. You'll never get the right rice texture with the combination of cooking rice piled that thick, cooking covered for so long, and baking(?!).

Paella should be cooked on top of the heat, and uncovered for almost its entire cooking period. Look. Paella developed in part as a way to avoid firing up the oven and heating up the whole house during hot weather. Paella pans don't have lids and tin-foil is a fairly recent addition to the Spanish home kitchen. Do the math and you can see that paella was cooked above the fire, uncovered. That means the rice wasn't too thick in the pan, or it wouldn't have cooked right AND would have taken forever.

Of course, since the advent of foil it would be stupid not to use it and make sure the very top layer of rice gets cooked. And ... the Weber Kettle has got to put some really nice taste into the dish. No way should you change that.

But ...big enough pan for a fairly thin layer of rice. Don't overload it.

BDL
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post #6 of 19
So much for promises. If it's cooked in a wok,it's not paella. Still an arroze, yes. But not paella.

BDL
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post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
when cooking paella on the kettle I...
  • simmer the broth and saffron on the stove and set aside
  • sauté the meat and set aside
  • sauté the vegetables and set aside
  • make sofrito
  • sauté the rice in the sofrito
  • add broth, lay meat, vegetables and lemon circles in some cool design that somewhat signifies portions
  • move the coals to the outside of the pan
  • close the lid (of the Weber) and cook trying to maintain 350f until the liquid is gone
  • remove the lid and try to build some soccarat
  • serve
When adding mussels I end up covering the pan for a time. When is the best time to add them in order to get them open yet not overcook them?

At the couple of websites with the carbon steel pans they didn't appear dimpled. It looked like only the SS pans were dimpled. I'll end up ordering a carbon steel pan, dimpled if I could find it.


In the pan that I currently have I would cook a smaller portion (usually six). I've tried to push it higher but it didn't work. I still suspect that my rice was still piled too deep (or is it high).

Thanks.

Thanks for the suggestions! I'll order some bomba rice when I order the paella (am I catching on). I have used both arborio and Valencia in the past. I'll certainly keep my eyes open for CalRose for a second choice in my paella dish and for risotto as well.


I've never used duck in my paella, I'll have to try it this year.


The ingredient list at La Tienda does seem ridiculous. Which I why I say that I loosely follow it. What ratio of rice:water is a good rule to follow for paella? Your right in assuming that my rice would take a long time to finish. Are you suggesting a loose covering of foil over the pan?

thanks a bunch! (again) (I feel as though I've said that before :crazy:)


dan
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
I made a paella today at work for Christmas Eve (hey, why not?)...boy was it good. How do restaurants screw paella up so badly all the time? I've ordered it out a few times at various Spanish restaurants and have never received one with rice to die for. Even at some Zagat rated Spanish restaurants it tastes ill prepared.

I may just end up putting Paella on the Do Not Order Out list like Ossobuco. Perhaps some things are just better prepared in the home kitchen/yard???


Merry Christmas all!

dan
post #9 of 19
One of the first things on my list to cook up in the new year! God that sounds amazing.
post #10 of 19
Here's a thread on Mouthfulsfood.com about paella.

Here's an even better one.

TJ, mentioned in the threads is I think first-generation American of a Spanish American family. And his paella -- absolutely delicious, I've been lucky enough to have it -- is as close to one of the real things as you can make here. I say "close to one of" because like cassoulet or pizza, there is no ABSOLUTE version; there are as many "authentic" versions as there are cooks who make it. So don't believe anyone who says "What you made isn't paella" no matter how vehement they might be. Unless, of course, you used Uncle Ben's rice and hot dogs and fish sticks. :lol:
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post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi Suzanne :) Thanks for the links you provided. I understand what your saying about not criticizing a dish which has difficult origins and complex methods & ingredients to pin down...even when there's controversy in the dishes motherland. I am certainly not in the cooking industry and have never been to Spain.

Perhaps I was a bit out of line. What I think of when I think paella, is the rice. To me paella is built from the sofrito...that's what establishes the flavor and sets the tone. The times that I've been disappointed have been when the rice has a raw tomato flavor to it. Reminds me more of a Spanish rice dish.

Happy Holidays...and thanks,
dan
post #12 of 19
gonefishin, please check your PMs.
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post #13 of 19

Good point,

Though I have never been to Spain. Every one I have talked to who has had Paella has described it differently enough to prove to me that it is still like any other national or regional dish......open to interpretation.

 

I think the basic thing to look for that was common in all the descriptions (someday I hope to be a first hand tale) is that the rice is the star of the dish and is cooked so that there is a bit of a crispy crunchy layer of it on the bottom of the pan., which when I do it in restaurants, is exactly what I go for. When I do serve this dish in the places I work I make sure to do my own interpretation of it as well. I would never dare to try and reproduce an authentic version of something I have never authentically had. That being said, every version I have served has been very well recieved, especially my southwest american version with mexican chorizo, black beans, chipotle, tiger shrimp and cilantro.... most of those by people who have been to Spain. I only say this to re-iterate a point, they love the dish because I make sure to get the rice a nice crispy brown surface on the bottom.

 

A side note: I have done some research on this dish in the past and there are some very strong ties to this dish and the classic of Jambalaya from New Orleans whose cuisine is very heavily but subtley influenced by Spain....but that may be another topic altogether.

 

post #14 of 19

The crispy rice from the bottom of the paellera is called socorro.

 

BDL

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post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by enrico View Post

Good point,

Though I have never been to Spain. Every one I have talked to who has had Paella has described it differently enough to prove to me that it is still like any other national or regional dish......open to interpretation.

 

I think the basic thing to look for that was common in all the descriptions (someday I hope to be a first hand tale) is that the rice is the star of the dish and is cooked so that there is a bit of a crispy crunchy layer of it on the bottom of the pan., which when I do it in restaurants, is exactly what I go for. When I do serve this dish in the places I work I make sure to do my own interpretation of it as well. I would never dare to try and reproduce an authentic version of something I have never authentically had. 

 

 

 

 

  Hi Enrico,

 

   Thanks for the post...and you do make some very valid points.  

 

   Like you, I haven't been to Spain.  But I do hope to get the opportunity to eat my way through their Country some day (maybe after the kids have grown).

 

    But I do believe you can do your best to pursue an authentic recipe when making a dish that you have never had in it's original land.  In my experience paella is a perfect example of this.  I have ordered paella in restaurants, in/near Chicago, and have never received what I would call a good product.  Sometimes the paella will be nothing more than a pilaf. Many times rice is the main ingredient, but not the star.   Even though I have never been to Spain I would like to make a good representation of the dish.  To me, it is also about the rice.  I want all the good ingredients in the paella..  But really, after it's cooked and the rice absorbs all the flavor from everything I would be happy eating only the rice.  

 

     Reading the description of your paella it sounds like you make a nice dish.  When I aim to make a new recipe I'll normally start with simply "a" recipe and give it a try.  Then I start to do a little research.  Sometimes the research leads me to eating variations in restaurants along with a lot of reading on the history of the land/history of the food and recipes.  

 

    From this point I try to refine my technique along with my ingredient list to reflect the original intent as best that I can.  This had led me to cooking moreoften with decent ingredients.  Such as good saffron, buying fresh harvested Spanish olive oil, trying different type of Spanish chorizo, becoming addicted to jamon (most notably Iberico bellota).  

 

   Even though I may not use these ingredients every time I make my paella, I believe I make a better product because I had pursued the flavors of some authentic ingredients.  But there can certainly be other variations and you can (of course) substitute ingredients that you have on hand.  That's just smart home cooking.

 

  Now, I said I believe paella is a good example because (I think) you can substitute ingredients and still end up with a good product if you use good technique.  There's plenty of paella recipes out there and I think many of them miss the mark by quite a bit. They have all the ingredients but they don't build the flavors the way "authentic" recipes do.  

 

   Today, I always have a couple quality Spanish olive oils on hand (some fresh harvested when in season).  Usually with differnt olives or different regions to give me varying flavors of Spain.  I also regularly buy small amounts of Iberico jamon and Iberico bellota (I've currently got 1/3 of an Iberico bellota Paleta (shoulder) on order (Can't wait!)  I will nearly always have examples of Spanish chorizo on hand as well.  It would be wrong if I didn't mention my paella.  I've got two carbon steel pans that are getting seasoned quite nicely, a 10" and an 18".  

 

    I certainly don't make the best paella in the land...and I still haven't been to Spain.  But I do believe that my pursuit of an authentic recipe (with technique) has led me to make a much better paella.  The best?  no....but better.

 

 

 

    Gumbo is another love of mine.  All examples of gumbo are soooooo good, yet I have never had two bowls that tasted the same.  That being said, I don't believe that I need to go to Louisiana to learn to cook an authentic gumbo.  I did many of the same things that I did for paella.  I would read about the food of the land, the ingredients, the history of the Louisiana.  I would order a bowl of gumbo every time it was available.  After cooking a whole lot of different recipes and reading the works of John Folse (and the like) I came up with a variation that I'm quite happy with.

 

     But in saying that I came up with a variation that I'm happy with doesn't mean that It tastes the same all the time.  Ingredients will vary, the roux will vary.  But the technique I use now, is generally always similar.  Is my gumbo authentic?  I think it's a good example of gumbo.

 

    After (finally) going to NoLa I don't think it was unwise to research authentic gumbo recipes beforehand.  I also understand that the flavors will vary from region to region (within Louisiana) and from house to house.  What did I taste when I was in NoLa?  Some really good gumbo!  But to get directly to the question if I believe all the gumbo I had in NoLa was a great example, I would say no.  Though all were good, in their own respect, I found many of them to be lazy and didn't bring the roux much past the blonde stage.  Again, they all still tasted wonderful.  But when I think of gumbo I aim to make a developed bowl of flavor, which (I believe) starts with the roux.  

 

   (side note:  I also enjoy the pecan pie recipe that's representative of the early Louisiana settlers from John Folse too)

 

    



Quote:
Originally Posted by enrico View Post

 I would never dare to try and reproduce an authentic version of something I have never authentically had. 

 

    I have no problem doing this   

 

 

 

 

   Please don't take my long winded post as anything other than the view I've formed up to this point.  Your paella sounds quite good to me...I've got to try your southwest american version!  It sounds delicious!!! 

post #16 of 19

Paella is all about the rice.  As stated above bomba rice is the best that I know of but I've never actually seen it in market.  Any home cooks will probably either need to buy it over the interwebs or substitute something else.  When I am making paella without the ideal rice I just reach for plain old American long grain but I don't rinse it and I find it acceptable.

 

Sofrito is the base of flavors in a paella and I make paella enough that I make a few cups of sofrito ahead of time and keep it portioned in the fridge or even the freezer.  Here's approximately my sofrito recipe:

 

2 yellow onions peeled and diced

2 red bell peppers diced

1/2 c evoo

6 plum tomatoes peeled and diced

6 cloves of garlic minced

2 T sherry vinegar

1 poblano chile diced

1 T pimenton

good pinch of safron

 

Saute the onions and bell peppers until soft, add the tomatoes and garlic and saute until not super watery.  Deglaze with sherry vinegar and stir in everything else and allow to cook down for about 10 minutes.  I usually pack it into a tall thin tupperware and drizzle some more evoo on top to help preserve it a bit.

 

I've had paella with all kinds of stuff in the cooking liquid--chicken stock, clam juice, wine, etc.  These days I opt for good 'ol H2O which is obviously a personal preference.  Chicken stock adds some depth but imo covers up too many other flavors.

 

And now for the most important part of any paella--the socarrat.  Towards the end of the cooking Paella should not be stirred very much to allow the rice in the bottom of the pan to toast.  This is something you generally sense by sense of smell.  When I do it I pile all of the rice in a mound so that very little of the rice touches the outside of the pan and let it sit.  With this technique the socarrat seems to be more dense and even and is also visible just by looking at the rice at the bottom of the mound.  When finished the paellera should be covered with a towel and allowed to sit for a few minutes to absorb any remaining broth.  Since the rice is mounded in the pan access broth can be spooned out of the sides if necessary.

 

In the restaurant we would be able to lift the entire socarrat out in large pieces and cut them into shapes for garnish.  We've also done preparations which are portioned on cast iron serving pieces and baked in the oven uncovered to produce a slight socarrat on top of the rice rather than the bottom.

 

As far as "toppings" I don't load it up a ton as I feel paella should be about the rice.  My favorite topping is probably cod which I cook fully in the rice towards the end.  Good ham is a favorite.  Jamon serrano or bacon is nice too.  I generally don't use chorizo as there is already a strong pimenton flavor in my sofrito recipe and thus chorizo can be a bit much if this weren't the case though you better believe it'd be in there.  Wisconsiny game like venison or pheasant often make appearances in paella I eat.

 

Paella is usually prepared outdoors and usually served family style, so as expected anything that has to do with family or outdoors should always be enjoyed with alcohol.  My family usually cracks some cold beer to enjoy Paella but any medium bodied fruity red or white wine should pair well.  I avoid aged wines as I'm often going for quantity over quality but also because of the deep smoky pimenton which would erase anything oaky.  For me, a chilled bottle of citusy Verdejo is the wine pairing equivalent of cookies and milk.  The Spanish food theme is also a good excuse to make sangria.

post #17 of 19

you mean socarrat, right?

 

 

post #18 of 19

Yes, my bad.  I did mean socarrat and should have written that.  I went to the Universidad de Salamanca for a semester or so, lived in Spain for a few months longer than that, and have lived since in areas where I get enough opportunity to keep up, and still speak Spanish fairly fluently -- not word by word, if you know what I mean.  Nevertheless, it seems that not only do I make mistakes, I made them in the past as well.   It's been a long time since that post, and can't remember what possibly could have prompted socorro (which is kind of an antique word for "help," but I think it still gets said in the religious context, e.g., "Blessed Virgin grant me succour," but I'm not Catholic and could easily be wrong about its continuing usage). 

 

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,

BDL

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post #19 of 19

What is the best paella gas burner available on the market?  Any suggestions?

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