23 Jul2010

Home-Made Paella

by Marketman


Thinking I had perhaps held La Barraca to such a high standard of expectations for a good paella when I wrote that post a few days ago, I decided to make a paella at the beach the next day. We almost always have the sofrito for our tomato/saffron based paellas in our freezers, making them in large batches and freezing the rest. It takes 3-4 hours to make a good batch of this flavor base, so it is worth it to make a lot at the same time. The sofrito is extremely important. A good stock is important. Short grained rice is essential, preferably Spanish, though I often substitute arborio since it is more readily available. And I find, using a charcoal or wood fire is also important.

With 8 hungry teenagers as our guests for dinner, I decided to make a simple paella with just chorizo, chicken and prawns just purchased at the local market. We had been battling electrical issues all day, and it was at the point that I was texting and calling the local power company and I was in a foul mood. Never cook in a foul mood they say. So in near darkness and in the rain, we managed to get the Weber grill lit and coals gleaming and I made the paella. It took 27 minutes total and it turned out pretty darned good. It had the desirable “film” on the surface of the paella, almost like a semi-solid oil slick that was packed with flavor. The rice was just done and soaked with flavor. And there was a nice socarrat or tutong in parts of the bottom of the pan. If there was one thing wrong, it lacked a little salt, a reaction to the overly salted paella we had in Madrid, but the undersalting was far easier to fix than an oversalting. So it isn’t hard at all to make a decent paella. Not hard at all. This paella, in an 18-inch diameter pan, cost a total of PHP1,300 or Euro20 to make, including charcoal and all ingredients and even some depreciation of equipment and a bit of labor, or roughly Euro2 per person. Considering that we paid some Euro30 per person just for the paella we ate at La Barraca (excluding jamon, drinks, etc.), I think I can conclude that we were well and truly fleeced.



  1. junb says:

    Wow the colour alone is enough for me to say this is a to die for Paella !!!!

    Jul 23, 2010 | 9:32 am


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  3. Footloose says:

    Agree, this is definitely a more vivid looking paella.

    I do not order dishes that I do really well. But I can see your motivation. Paella being your signature dish, you want to see how well you measure against native practitioners and where else to do it but in the land of paella so the let down, in fact, was not just in the over-salting.

    Jul 23, 2010 | 9:35 am

  4. Ley says:

    Love your paella valenciana recipe MM! Mas lami kay sa Casino Espanol:)

    Jul 23, 2010 | 11:15 am

  5. Rona Y says:

    I think if you priced your ingredients according to EU standards (those shrimp alone would cost a lot more in Spain than they do in the Philippines, I’m sure!), you might have a slightly higher per person price, but restaurant food is often a rip off if you think about how much it would cost you to make whatever you’re eating at home. That’s why I usually order things I can’t/won’t make at home when I eat out. I can make carbonara at home for about $1, no more than $2, but it costs $16+ at various Italian restaurants where I live! What’s up with that?

    Jul 23, 2010 | 11:31 am

  6. Marketman says:

    Rona Y, you are right, prawns in spain outrageously priced, but at least their saffron, chorizo and rice would be a lot cheaper than in Manila. Restaurants typically used to go with the formula of having food cost at roughly 25-30% of the menu price. In the Philippines, that holds mostly true at most mid-high range restaurants, sometimes food cost gets up to 40% of the menu price even. But I suppose high rents, staffing costs, advertising, taxes, etc. all bring the price of restaurant meals up. Plus, with fewer people cooking at home, the premium for convenience has also risen. If people ate home more often, they would realize how much money they could save and how much better they might be eating… Ley, surprisingly, I have NEVER had a paella at Casino Espanol in Cebu… how odd is that? Footloose, I agree, if one does several dishes well at home, restaurant dining is often a disappointment.

    Jul 23, 2010 | 11:59 am

  7. Rob says:

    This is the traditional method of making paella valenciana, outdoors over a fire in a flat, shallow pan (paellera), preferably near the coast. I’ve seen too many people trying to make this in a dutch oven on a stove with not-to-pleasant results. The fire is “imprescindible” to achieve the perfect socarrat, ideally a wood fire but since you said it was raining then charcoal it has to be.

    That’s a good-sized paellera you were using (18″=46cms), in Spain this is the right size to feed 12 people.

    ¿Por qué no subiste más fotos? I’d like to see the socarrat! I can’t ever recall seeing a post with just a single photo!

    Jul 23, 2010 | 4:21 pm

  8. sister says:

    I make paella in an apt. kitchen in a 16″ pan and start on top of the stove and once all the ingredients are in the pan finish off in the oven, and it works pretty well. You can put a couple of lit chunks of hardwood charcoal in a foil pan on the side for a smokey flavor. To get the “socarrat” place the entire pella pan on the floor of the oven at 350 F. for about 15-20 min. Getting the timing right is tricky but that’s just a question of practice, ideally the paella is done just before you sit down to dinner to allow for it to sit a few minutes.

    Jul 23, 2010 | 5:52 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    Rob, we were in the middle of a blackout, and when the paella was brought to the table, 8 hungry teenagers attacked it after my first photo… hence the lack of other photos. Sister’s paellas in the stove come out nicely too, so I wouldn’t hesitate to make a paella if you didn’t have access to an outdoor fire. As always, really good ingredients and some practice are the keys to success…

    Jul 23, 2010 | 7:32 pm

  10. Footloose says:

    This señora did a splendid looking at home paella demo for the Atlantic Monthly http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2010/05/how-spain-eats-at-home-a-lesson-in-real-paella/39560/ with informative step by step slide show. The only thing I did not like in it is she sounded too doctrinaire like those who assert that an authentic pinakbet has to involve an Ilocana granny presiding over it.

    Jul 23, 2010 | 7:46 pm

  11. dragon says:

    MM, I can vouch for how good your sofrito & paella are….

    Jul 23, 2010 | 8:08 pm

  12. Marketman says:

    Footloose, thanks for that link, it’s a good one. And I mostly agree that the paella she makes is a classic one. But the writer’s emphasis of heat as the key to success is a dubious one… firstly, the classic paellas are done over an open fire, preferably dried grape vines, I hear, and adjusting the heat of such vines is a little bit trickier than just turning down the gas burner… But I have seen a demo with a guy in Valencia, a master he was described, that did fiddle with the vine embers by pulling some away or adding more at the “critical” moments… :) dragon, yes, I recall you tried this with much success at home… :)

    Jul 23, 2010 | 8:28 pm

  13. Elaine says:

    MM, how did you arrange your coals in the weber?

    Jul 23, 2010 | 10:52 pm

  14. EbbaMyra says:

    Our church is one of the main distributor of the Houston Food Bank and I volunteer to help out twice a week, incuding cooking for the staff and other visitors; basically using most of the ingredients that I can put my hands on in the Food Pantry.

    I recently got “two”paella” pans and I am excited to try cooking using your recipe; this dish is perfect with the grill I have at the church (we don’t have oven). One thing though I wonder if the “bottled” Puerto Rican sofrito would work? My balae cooks her from scratch and it taste great with our menudo/apritada. I was wondering I’ll try to tweak it. Wish me luck.

    Jul 23, 2010 | 11:40 pm

  15. fried-neurons says:

    Hi MM,

    Do you have a post on how you make sofrito at home? There are so many different recipes online (slow-cook, fast-cook, no-cook) and I can’t decide which one I’d like to try first. So I figure if you have a recipe I’ll probably start with that. :)

    Jul 24, 2010 | 12:30 am

  16. Juan Miguel says:

    fried-neurons – the recipe is detailed in Marketman’s post titled “Paella a la Marketman”. The following is the linf (copy and paste if it doesn’t work):

    I’ll try it myself sometime.

    Jul 24, 2010 | 3:35 am

  17. quiapo says:

    I wonder why the woodfire is essential, does the smoke influence the taste?
    Ley, from memory the Casino Espanol did not use good olive oil for paella. I used to order it as a takeaway sometimes, if I had guests at home and was pressed for time.
    I tend to use basmati rice now rather than short grain, as it cooks quickly, and is recommended for diabetics, due to its low glycemic index. In fact I use basmati exclusively now for all rice, and it has brought some stability to my blood sugar readings.

    Jul 24, 2010 | 6:35 am

  18. Marketman says:

    fried neurons, basic paella recipe that I use described here, which includes the sofrito ingredients and recipe. I also wrote this post to describe the sofrito further. While it takes 3-4 hours to do properly, you could be reading a book or taking care of email in the meanwhile, as you just have to go check it every once in a while. The slicing of onions can be a major hassle if you tend to tear at this task…

    Jul 24, 2010 | 7:45 am

  19. Clarissa says:

    i’ve been wanting to make paella since you posted about it on your trip, since I haven’t made it in ages! Today, I’ll make some, and this would be the first time I’d be using a sofrito, following your recipe. I usually cook down the tomatoes on the paellera itself before adding all the other stuff :) hoping it will turn out as well as yours! :D

    Jul 24, 2010 | 9:14 am

  20. JunB says:

    Yesterday dinner is an arroz negro with a variation where I added a quick 1hr sofrito and my wife and kids this one taste better than the last time I cooked it. I’ll definitely try the 3-4hrs sofrito and keep the rest on my freezer.

    Jul 25, 2010 | 4:40 pm


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