This entry was one of my first posts in January 2005. I am re-posting it due to the number of requests for paella for the upcoming holidays. It sounds daunting but all the preparation is utterly and absolutely worth it.This is it. A really delicious and fairly authentic Paella a la Valenciana you can make at home. Culled from several sources and tested on our outdoor grill numerous times, this Marketman Paella recipe is my contribution to all of those people who have completely messed up a perfectly good peasant dish. While the recipe will appear daunting, it is really quite easy once you have tried it. It always amazes me how perfectly good recipes are bastardized to the point that they are just shades of their original selves. We Filipinos have done this to several international favorites — think sweet spaghetti with hotdog, cesar’s salad with iceberg lettuce, potato salad with pineapple and tiny ensaymada more cake-like than flaky pastry. One can argue that we are merely innovative (pronounced e-nov-a-tiv???), experimental, etc. … I say stick to the original, thank you. Having said that, have you ever wondered how Spain ended up with rice and saffron, two key ingredients in their paella? One account has it that rice and saffron were brought by Arab invaders. Another version suggests that rice was introduced to Greece then Southern Europe by Alexander the Great’s expeditions in 344 B.C. Hmmm…
Paella takes its name from the paellera, the two-handled frying pan in which the dish is traditionally cooked. Paellera comes from the latin patella, meaning pan. Paella originated in the countryside of Spain, and is traditionally cooked by men, typically farm hands or hunters. In the fields or forests edge at lunchtime, they simmered short grain rice in the pan and threw in whatever edibles were close at hand such as snails, rabbit, artichokes, etc. Along the shores, they improvised with added seafood. Purists will harp on the fact that the right strain of rice makes the difference between a good paella and a great paella. Valencia is where most of Spain’s rice is grown. Spaniards use short grained rice such as Bomba or Callasparra which are able to absorb lots of broth but retain their shape. They scoff at the Italian Arborio which has a creamier texture. If you can get Spanish short grain rice that is ideal, but I find Arborio or Carnaoli to be reasonable alternatives. Real saffron is a must (the local kasubha will not do).
I consumed a string of mediocre paellas late last year which led me to search for an authentic recipe I could do at home. I was intrigued by doing it on a charcoal flame just like they did in the fields of Spain. My recipe search and several attempts on the grill have yielded the following recipe. Do not take shortcuts or substitute any of the key ingredients or I will get cross.
The first key is to make a genuine sofrito. This sofrito recipe taken from Cesar – Recipes from a Tapas Bar by Olivier Said. Heat 3/4 cup of extra-virgin Spanish olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saute pan. Add 4 large white onions that have been sliced very thinly. Uniform slice widths are critical. Turn heat to low and cook the onions slowly until fully caramelized and evenly brown, about 1 hour. Yup, 1 hour. Stir occasionally to ensure even browning. The onions should be brown, sweet and soft. Next add four cloves of garlic that have been thinly sliced and cook for another 15 minutes. Add 4-5 cups of diced perfectly ripe fresh tomatoes or canned chopped tomatoes and 1 – 2 teaspoons of good saffron and cook this another 1 hour until you get a thick jamlike consistency. Puree in a blender or using a hand-held puree machine. If you take a shortcut on the sofrito, you have doomed your paella. Seriously.
Next make sure all other ingredients are assembled — this recipe is for a 20-inch paellera and should feed 16 easily.
Spanish olive oil
6-7 cups short grained rice (Italian carnaoli or arborio if no Spanish)
12-14 cups of chicken stock (home made if you have it or canned low sodium as an alternative) – heated
1/2 kilo chicken more or less
A few chorizo bilbaos
1/3 kilo sliced pork tenderloin
3/4 kilo crab or crab claws
1/2 kilo clams or mussels
1/3 kilo squid cleaned and without ink sacks or beady eyes
1/2 kilo prawns
Some frozen peas (omit if you want authentic Valenciana)
Some sliced grilled red peppers (mostly for color and visual appeal)
Start a large charcoal fire in your Weber or similar barbecue grill. When it is hot, place the grill on and your paellera. Heat up about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of olive oil, then saute chicken and pork seasoned with some salt and pepper and paprika if you like. Brown these a little and stir frequently. This will give you a gauge of heat levels… if things are cooking too fast close your air vents to regulate fire. Next throw in sliced chorizo and as soon as it is rendering fat put 6-7 cups of rice and stir rapidly to coat the rice with olive oil and meat juices. Do this fast as the rice could burn. Add all of your sofrito and stir quickly to coat the rice. Next put in 12-14 cups of hot chicken stock (2 cups for every cup of rice) and make sure the rice is evenly distributed in the pan and wait for this to simmer. You may want to withhold a cup or so of liquid to add later. Do not stir the mixture from here on in. Next place the crab pieces and claws on top of the rice. Cover the barbecue for a few minutes to let the rice and crab cook. Next place the prawns, squid, and clams on top of the rice and sprinkle with some salt to taste. You may not be able to include all yor ingredients so don’t fret if you have extras. Let this cook another 5-7 minutes before you put the green peas and the slivered red peppers. Cover again for a few minutes. When the broth is fully absorbed the paella should be cooked. This will take 20-30 minutes depending on the strength of your fire. The fire should start out strong and gradually taper off. Serve with lemon wedges and cross your fingers hoping that you have some burned crusted rice at the bottom of the pan otherwise known as tutong. Some people really dig the tutong. If you want more fat, serve an aoili (garlic mayonnaise) on the side.
I had a surplus of shellfish the first time I made this so I stir fried prawns, crab, clams and squid together with 2-3 cups of crab roe to augment the paella. This last photo is of all that extra stuff. Truly over the top. Gout material. Enjoy your paella.