11 Jan2012

Paella Tweaks

by Marketman

Over the years, I have featured several posts on paella, all either based on a rather tedious but incredibly trustworthy sofritto of onions, tomato and saffron or non-tomato based paellas. While I am loath to change a perfectly good recipe, I do get a bit antsy every time we make a paella and inevitably try a slight tweak or two. Sometimes they work well, other times they do nothing, and worse, sometimes they fail miserably. In this version of our house special, I did a few things that may not seem shocking to you, but does change the feel of the dish slightly…

Paella purists would probably not approve, but so be it. Instead of adding the chorizo at the start of the process, I added the slices late in the cooking, studding the top of the paella with the chorizo. The reason? I didn’t want the chorizo to overcook and dry out. Instead, I sprinkled the chicken and pork liberally with paprika to get that flavor infused into the whole paella, without sacrificing the chorizo. Second, I added some whole cherry tomatoes to the dish. They were on hand and plentiful, but my intention was to add some moisture to the dish, which does have a tendency to dry out the longer it sits on the table. The results weren’t as I had expected… the tomatoes remained plump and whole, looking almost unaltered by the cooking. But on your dish, they burst onto your rice, moist and incredibly flavorful, a pleasant change. So while they didn’t literally make the paella moister, they did so when poked and skins burst on your serving of rice. Finally, instead of adding whole small squid or large rings of squid, I decided to slice the squid into thin ribbons and added them fairly late in the cooking process. I was playing with this technique after having a beautiful tapas of squid at this restaurant Txikito (240 9th Avenue, Manhattan) last November and the texture was exquisite. I can say that the way you slice it does affect how you enjoy it… would definitely do that again. If you want the original paella recipe that we use at least 6-8 times a year in our household, see this old post.



  1. bearhug0127 says:

    I so miss the taste of paella! I remember my first paella was at a restaurant in the old china bank building along paseo de roxas in makati, name of which i couldn’t recall. But the paella there was superb.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 6:02 am


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  3. bakerwannabe says:

    I tried Paella a couple of times. Both times turned out plain ordinary. I have to try it again with your sofrito technique. I do not own a paellera. I used my le creuset dutch oven. Maybe I should try it on a wider frying pan. Your paella looks so good and so juicy. Do you still ship lechon to Manila? BTW, in case you did not see my post on the other topic, I am 12 years older than you. But still a roaring dragon.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 6:05 am

  4. Marketman says:

    bakerwannabe, for me, the key to a good paella is doing it over charcoal flames. And yes, a paellera would be nice… but I have seen good ones done in an oven in a large flat le Creuset or similar type pan. Yes, Zubuchon does ship to Manila, for pick up at the airport, I did a post on ordering, here.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 7:31 am

  5. wisdom tooth says:

    MM, your old paella recipe is the most requested dish we cook for our friends. It is very flavovoful. I will use the sofrito recipe definetly and will add your tweaks in the future. We just had this for our New Year’s eve plus your Gambas as one of our tapas. Que bueno!!
    Bakerwannabe, try MM’s Paella recipe. Walang paltos!!
    Happy dragon year to you both!!

    Jan 11, 2012 | 7:33 am

  6. sister says:

    If you have to make paella indoors try starting it on top of the stove, possibly over two burners in a wide pan. After adding the rice and the stock, bring to a simmer for 5 min then arrange seafood on top and finish off by placing the pan on the floor of a preheated 350 F oven, minus the rack, thereby heating the bottom of your pan like over an open fire. Paella will be ready in 15-20 min and you might even develop a crust on the bottom. Throw squid and scallops on top 5 min before removing from the oven. Adequate amounts of stock will keep the paella moist.
    In the US excellent chorizo is available from Despania.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 7:44 am

  7. Footloose says:

    Haven’t much taken heed of paella purists or just purist anything myself. I too add the chorizo slices at the last steps of cooking so as not to dry it out and render its fats into the rice just as you do but more importantly, so as to contain and not release the smoky paprika flavor prematurely and cancel out saffron’s aroma. It would be like drowning the scent of a $500 an ounce perfume with tobacco odor from a dime a dozen cheroot.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 8:19 am

  8. junb says:

    Yummy!!! It’s my regular feast too!

    Jan 11, 2012 | 9:26 am

  9. Papa Ethan says:

    How serendipitous! I purposefully went to this site first thing today to read up on MM’ s sofrito recipe. I’ve been using a certain sofrito method for quite some time now, which is rather laborious and time-consuming in terms of prepping the ingredients. A “request” for a birthday paella for tomorrow finally gives me a chance to depart from my recipe and try MM’s instead.

    Like you, MM, “I do get a bit antsy … and inevitably try a slight tweak or two.” But I guess my project for tomorrow would be more than a “slight tweak.” I find it very appealing that your recipe can be made in advance and in a quantity sufficient for making several paellas.

    BTW, I once made an earthy, “farm-flavored” paella using fresh mushrooms and quail meat for the main ingredients, and green peas and patani (wing beans?) for the toppings. Sarap! :-)

    Jan 11, 2012 | 9:58 am

  10. Thel from Florida says:

    I’m cooking paella on my Mom’s birthday January 17.

    Sister, thank you kindly for that great tip of putting the paellera on the floor of the oven. I really like my paella with tutong.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 10:29 am

  11. betty q. says:

    I got hooked on Mrs. Hazan’s tomato sauce that I have used it in everything from topping eggs with it to pastas and also as my base for paella…so much that when I make this tomato sauce, I make it by the calderos and freeze them….then it is just a matter of putting everything together to make paella or even cioppino.

    Sister….good idea! I could only fit though a small container on the oven floor because of the heating element. So, I have resorted to heating an inverted cookie sheet till smoking hot on the lowest oven slot and using that to have the same effect as the oven floor.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 10:39 am

  12. TF says:

    We usually pre-fry our chorizo (I use bilbao or cantimpalitos) in the paellera, then take them out and put them aside. Continue with sauteeing the rest of the sofrito, pork, chicken so as to keep the flavors in the pan without drying out the chorizos. The flavors are spot on. And yes, try to use a paella pan and if wood fire isn’t available, then a wide burner for outdoor use is good.

    MM, what brand chorizo did you use? Because the one we use doesn’t dry out (US brand La Espanola or Revilla). We tried the Marca El Rey and it had a “mealy” texture as if it was mostly fillers and not pork fat/meat.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 12:28 pm

  13. talltrails says:

    Sometimes I would experience a “mrs. marketman envy.” I’d wish to marry a husband who liked to cook and was actually a great cook like you. But then again I realized that if I married someone like you, I would probably weigh 200 lbs by now. Portion control would not work at all. It’s amazing that Mrs. Marketman and the Teen are very slender when they are constantly dining on such wonderful meals. How the heck do they do that?

    Jan 11, 2012 | 12:57 pm

  14. bakerwannabe says:

    Sister, that’s a great idea. Thank you.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 2:01 pm

  15. farida says:

    I don’t know, MM. But just the thought of cooking the paella scares me. I did it only once before with much trepidation. It did not come out right. Anyway, I have made lots of your sofrito recipe in anticipation of the next ones, and it is just sitting in the freezer. I will just have to try it again and soon.

    Thank you for the tip. Sister.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 2:17 pm

  16. WeekendGourmet says:

    Very excited to try your paella recipe, as well as the method suggested by your sister when making it indoors :)

    Jan 11, 2012 | 3:24 pm

  17. Chinky says:

    I use your sofrito and paella recipe, MM. I use a bit less rice and lots of stock. It’s been a hit! I sauté the chorizos a bit just to render the fat, remove the chorizo slices and put it back towards the end of the cooking.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 8:21 pm

  18. sister says:

    I have a Viking gas stove and the flames are under the floor of the oven. Betty Q and those who might have an electric oven can use the lowest rack with her suggested baking sheet, or a preheated pizza stone if you have one and it will heat up the bottom of your paellera nicely. 300 F to 350 F works nicely depending on the amount inside the paellera.
    Letting the rice and meat simmer for 5 min before adding the seafood will prevent the seafood from overcooking or the rice from being raw. We like an al dente very moist rice and barely cooked seafood. Time your cooking so the paella is ready when your guests are about to sit down, do not make far in advance although it should sit for 5-10 min while a first course is being served (soup or salad).
    If you desire a slight smoky aroma you could purchase wood chips or smoke flavor from Sur la Table or Williams Sonoma and place those on the oven floor as well.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 8:46 pm

  19. joey says:

    What great timing! The hubs and I just finished another round of paella and I was trolling your blog for tips, although this post was not up yet. We still have a ways to go before achieving our own family paella perfection, so you tips here will come in handy for the next round…thanks for sharing them!

    We (C and I) do some things to our paella that I am sure the Spanish would flay us for ;) And I have plans for even more rule-breaking in the future! Heehee :)

    Jan 11, 2012 | 9:06 pm

  20. PITS, MANILA says:

    i remember having lechon paella way back … i don’t remember exactly what was in it. i see this now and wonder if it’s the same stuff inside the lechon.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 10:05 pm

  21. sister says:

    I did make paella for Three Kings dinner and only used seafood- lobsters, clams, mussels, squid and bay scallops and homemade fish stock. I included some Despania chorizo but no pork or chicken.

    Jan 11, 2012 | 10:21 pm

  22. wisdom tooth says:

    Thank you Sister and Betty q for your tips on how to cook paella in the oven. My husband and I are scared to cook it any other way than through our old faithful round Weber charcoal grill. kahit malamig, naka winter coat lang si hubby plus scarf and toque maka paella lang.
    MM, your Paella negra is another favorite of ours! Salamat…

    Jan 12, 2012 | 12:41 am

  23. ami says:

    Wow, so many toppings for your paella that you can hardly see the rice anymore. Paella restaurants here in Manila tend to scrimp on the toppings.

    Jan 12, 2012 | 8:52 am

  24. Alicia says:

    so many of your recipes have been our go- to favorites. Your paella included. Just had your crab with sotanghon. Damn! So good!

    Jan 12, 2012 | 5:04 pm

  25. marissewalangkaparis says:

    mm,i do my paella like your mom…teehee…i lack practise…should cook some soon…

    Jan 14, 2012 | 5:18 am

  26. betty q. says:

    Wisdom Tooth: next time you make paella negra and you have leftover whole pusit as well as the rice stuff the rice inside the squid and serve them with tomato coulis for next day’s meal.

    Jan 14, 2012 | 11:55 am

  27. Wisdom tooth says:

    Betty q, na save na yung tip mo re leftover paella negra. Paano gumawa ng tomato coulis? You, MM and sister make our meals very exciting. Thank you thank you!!

    Jan 17, 2012 | 10:27 pm

  28. Chris says:

    Interesting– cherry tomatoes and chorizo toward the finish?

    I gotta admit that as I looked at your images, it was entirely delicious looking to me and brought up images of pizza that was served in Japan to me back in the eighties. As for paella purists, they are probably Spaniards and even they continually argue about what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ about any traditional Spanish dish.

    Playing with recipes is what makes cooking fun. A couple of notes, regardless, which I totally expect you and any savvy cook to disregard

    1) paella purists will not fill up their paelleras to the rim but usually just to about where the rivets for the handles go. The reason is this helps to insure the chances of carmelization on the bottom of the dish–the soccorat!

    2) The use of pimenton is certainly normal and the smoked variety is particularly flavorful, but one should…might consider that Spanish paprika can be quite overpowering and can drown out many of the other flavors if used too liberally. Unless of course, that’s the goal.

    3) finally, Paella is first and foremost a rice dish…not a seafood dish or a mar y mutanya dish, so remembering this might be helpful when cooking paella– the other ingredients accent the rice, not the other way around.

    At last, what one might cook, whether one uses a paellerra or not, shouldnt really matter. While I cook Spanish cuisine a good deal and often (I even work in a store in California that specializes in Spanish cuisine, cookery, and their imports), I always try to keep a balance between what a dish is traditionally and what it might morph into through exposure to other cultures and cuisines.

    Jan 18, 2012 | 3:37 pm

  29. Marketman says:

    Chris, I would have to say I completely agree with you. We (pinoys) and I definitely overfill the pan… the ones in Spain are positively flat and sparsely dotted with “laman” or other ingredients. The soccorat does still form in a heavy filled pan, particularly if done over coals, but the proportion of socarrat to the rice differs. Yes, paprika can overwhelm, and better to do so with saffron, if one can afford that. I have to do a more classic take on the dish, if only to compare… we tend to overdo paellas, making it both the viand and the rice. :)

    Jan 18, 2012 | 3:44 pm


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