Here is the step by step guide (with photos) to our “house” paella… :) I first featured a paella recipe here, so you can refer to that recipe and these visual instructions. Since that first paella post, I have made dozens of paellas and posted several on this blog. Paellas receive enthusiastic reader responses, and several private emails, so I thought it might be useful to do this basic tutorial, with the help of our two “manongs” at home, the resident paella experts who tend fire and paella with great pride and expertise… :) But first, some caveats for paella purists, for whom there are a few out there. Yes, we do tend to “overdo” our paellas, with too much rice and too much “stuff” in one pan. I agree. Ours is an Imeldific one, with no apologies. A sort of rice with viand jumble, rather than the subtle and intense saffron rice with just a hint of protein. Second, we make a 3-4 hour sofritto of slowly caramelized onions, tomatoes, garlic and saffron which is our flavoring base, it is essential in my opinion. Every time we try a shortcut version of tomato paste and aromatics in the pan, I feel it is inferior in flavor somehow. :) Third, we use bomba or other spanish short grain rice when we can get our hands on it, but most of the time, end up using arborio rice as it is more readily available. Arborio tends to get a little more mushy and wet than bomba. Fourth, we almost ALWAYS do this over a charcoal fire. If we had a vineyard nearby, we would use dried grape vines for intense short term heat and a smoldering fire. Cooking over a charcoal fire takes practice in the sense that you want it hot enough to get a bit of a socarrat or tutong, but not before your rice is perfectly cooked.
First, don a vintage Marketman family beach house crab t-shirt, here. Light your charcoal fire, and when ready, place your paella pan on the grill. Add a generous amount of olive oil and add your chicken parts (rabbit if you have a fresh one that’s properly cleaned) and pork (we used some leftover lechon meat, because we had it) and saute for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper, add a touch of sweet paprika if you like.
Next, add the rice and stir to coat with the meat juices and oils…
…seconds later, add generous amounts of sofritto, the secret ingredient. :) Mix this all together with some urgency…
…and quickly but carefully pour in the HOT chicken broth. While we normally put generous amounts of saffron in the sofritto, lately, I have leaned towards adding more saffron to the broth as well. Make sure you give the saffron several minutes to infuse the broth for maximum flavor impact. Good saffron is the key to a great paella most of the time… With lots of saffron, some folks don’t even bother with a broth, but only add hot water.
Mix the broth and rice mixture a bit to try and evenly distribute the rice at the bottom of the pan, then never mix it again. Bring this to a steady simmer, then add some chorizo. At this point, you are roughly 10 minutes into the cooking process. Simmer for a few minutes more.
Season generously with salt…
…and freshly ground black or white pepper. We find it’s good to season at this stage, and again after all the seafood has been added.
Next, at about the 15 minute mark, add your fish (fresh tangigue cut into cubes), cleaned and cut squid…
…and shrimp to the paella pan. If your eyes were really sharp, you would have caught that the shrimp went in first, rather than the other way around. :)
Sometimes, we find it useful to cover the grill for a couple of minutes, but often times that isn’t even necessary.
After about 22-25 minutes, depending on the volume of rice/stuff you are cooking, the paella should be just about ready. We like to pull it off rather “wet” still, then follow the classic Spanish move of wrapping the paellera in newspaper and letting it steam for several minutes more before serving.
Do not skip the steaming step. It’s important. Oh, and recently I just learned that paellas are not eaten piping hot, and straight off the fire, their flavors develop and are apparently best consumed some 15-20 minutes after taking them off the flames… we tried this the other day and I have to say I like that idea a lot.
So wasn’t that really easy? Now you have no reason not to try this at home! Again, if you were observant, you would have noticed that there are two different paellas photographed in this post. The top and the bottom photos are in a different pan… The top and bottom paella was an attempt to do it “closer” to authentic, we halved the amount of rice and tried to reduce the meat and seafood, but it still wasn’t as “thin” as a Spanish paella… it tasted good, however. The large paella in the black pan had exactly the same ingredients, but was double the thickness when cooked… the crew devoured that one. :)
P.S. For our experimental paella the other day, I also added the broth BEFORE the rice and that turned out just fine, so you can do that order of ingredients if you like.