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.