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Paella ~ The National Dish of Spain

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 29 May 2010 at 15:19
 
Quote The Origin and History of Paella

"La paellera" is a cooking utensil, traditionally and preferably made of iron, but now often made of stainless steel. The base of the paellera is flat and should be of a good thickness. The pan is circular and shallow, and has two round handles on opposite sides. The word itself is old Valencian and probably has its roots in the Latin 'patella' (a flat basket in Galicia). The Castilian 'paila' and the French 'paele' mean the same thing.
 
During the centuries following the establishment of rice in Spain, the peasants of Valencia would use the paellera to cook rice with easily available ingredients from the countryside: tomatoes, onions and snails. On special occasions rabbit or duck might be included, and the better-off could afford chicken. Little by little this 'Valencian rice' became more widely known. By the end of the nineteenth century 'paella valenciana' had established itself.
 
Nowadays whole families will troop off to a restaurant to eat paella, or make it at home with all those present lending a hand with the preparation. The whole thing becomes a mixture of party, ceremony and debate, or rather, considering the volume at which it is maintained, argument between the master paella cooks who are present and who are all convinced they know best how to make it....

Paella is not only a beautiful dish, it is arguably one of the tastiest in the world. The secret is in the saffron threads used for it's unique flavor and the particular type of rice, which abosrbs three times the amount of liquid than ordinary rice and maintains a delicious firmness. The best rice comes from Spain itself, the Murcia region and is known as Calasparra.
 
Paella can be made with anything - it's a catch-all, Spanish peasant's dish that includes whatever is in season and can be found locally. There is vegetable paella featuring lima beans, green beans, peas and onions- and often includes snails; Meat paella, usually including chorizo, is made with wild hare and perhaps venison. Chicken thighs and pork chunks are also popular for this type of paella. Then there is the seafood paella which is loaded with whatever the catch of the day is.
 
There are only 3 requirements for a paella: the pan, calasparra or arborio rice (a special type of short grained rice which absorbs three times the normal amount of liquid that other rices and remains firm without clumping) and saffron for that unique and definitive paella taste.
 
For my first attempt, I am using a paella pan/kit that I purchased from world market in Billings earlier this spring:
 
 
Click here for one just about like it:
 
 
This kit looks to be of pretty dang good quality and was also a great price. Normally 25$ for the pan itself, this kit, with Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, Valencian medium-grain rice and all the seasonings for paella, was offered at that price; on top of that, the store was running a promotion and the kit was an additional 5$ off - so for 20$, I believe i got an incredible value. The kit comes from el avion and this is an authentic paella pan from Spain, not some cheap knock-off, which i was initially concerned about. It is 14 inches across at the top and 11 inches across at the bottom. The handles are riveted to the carbon-steel body and it looks to be just right for Spain's national dish.
 
In order to prep this new pan, I washed it thoroughly with hot water and a plastic brush, then wiped it dry. I then set it on the stovetop and poured a little bit of oil in it, then heated the oil over medium heat until it was hot and runny, but not smoking. I then swirled the oil around to thoroughly coat the surfaces of the pan and then shut the burner off. When the oil cooled down a bit, I wiped the pan on all surfaces, inside and out, with a paper towel and discarded the excess. It is currently sitting upside-down in our turned-off oven, waiting to make paella either today or tomorrow!
 
I haven't yet decided what kind of paella to make. I have three options: seafood, chicken or vension. All of these versions will have rice, saffron, green beans and chorizo, as well as a few other thngs. when I decide what kind to make, I'll get a plan together!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2010 at 03:15
Sounds like you've got a plan Ron....can't wait to see the results.
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2010 at 08:13
alright, guys - did a little shopping yesterday and we settled on seafood paella. my wife was a little frightened of the idea of mussels, so i got some clams that we will throw in instead - we also got some shrimp, crab sections and cod fillets.
 
will be making this sometime late this afternoon - prep (mise en plas) is going to be key and i plan on having everything ready-to-go-beforehand. hope it goes well!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2010 at 08:24
Allrighty!!! Clap
 
Sounds excellent, Ron! You are going to love the cod. It is a white firm fleshed fish that won't fall apart in the cooking process. It is strong and grainy like beef, with a mild fresh flavor. Clams are a good addition and by the sounds of it, you are in for a feast that will make you a believer. Also, congratulations on the pan, that's an authentic paellera my friend, and you are well on the way to National Paella Day! Looks like we will both be celebrating NPD together, we got a seafood one planned for this afternoon.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 June 2010 at 17:22
hey, guys - sorry for the delay but it's been a heck of a weekend ~ the paella went down very well for a first attempt and i was very happy with it ~ the only problem is that the rice seemed a little moist; i am assuming this must have been from the extra moisture in all of the seafood, which - except for the cod fillets - was pre-cooked and frozen. other than that, this was a home run out of the park!
 
here's a shot of the goods - disregard the sea salt (there was plenty in the seasoning packet and seafood), cracked black pepper and the cherry tomatoes; instead picture some fresh, cut green beans:
 
 
after a little bit of prep work (once again, instead of cherry tomatoes, think fresh green beans!):
 
 
note that the saffron threads are steeping in 3 tablespoons of vinegar.
 
we got started. paella begins, as so many good things begin, with a couple of diced onions sitting in some hot extra virgin olive oil:
 
 
once the onions got a little browner than this, but not too brown, the garlic was added and the pan was removed from the heat for a moment as it sweated out its goodness. we then added the rice, seasoning packet and smoked paprika:
 
 
after some gentle stirring around to mix the ingredients (you do NOT want to toast the rice!):
 
 
we added a proper amount of water. i don't remember the exact measurement, but it was roughly three times the amount of the rice. we also added the saffron, which we had steeped in 3 tablespoons of white vinegar. then #4 son roger added some chorizo disks and the cod fillets; he then laid out the red and orange pepper strips:
 
 
after about 25 minutes of simmering on very low heat without stirring, we added the green beans and crab leg sections. yes, they were imitation, but they worked very well for this project and, to be honest, fit right in with our budget:
 
 
next came the clams - sorry for the out-of-focus sections of the picture but for some reason i liked the way this one turned out:
 
 
and finally, the shrimp. lots of shrimp:
 
 
since we were cooking on a stove and not in an oven or over a fire, we then covered the top with foil. due to the construction of the pan, we were able to crimp the edges fairly well. this allowed the rice to continue cooking and the pre-cooked seafood to heat up to perfection:
 
 
after another 25 minutes, here's what we had - it sure looked good and in my estimation was finished, but it probably could have cooked a few minutes uncovered in order to get rid of some excess moisture:
 
 
we served it up to everyone and chowed down. we enjoyed the zinfandel during the simmering of the paella, and when it came time to serve it, we had the chardonnay. both were very good-tasting wines that went well with the experience!
 
 
lots of great impressions of this cooking process as well as the meal itself. as you can see, this method makes a LOT of paella, and we managed to feed 8 people with this pan-ful and 7 of those 8 people expressed great enjoyment of their meal ~ it must have been good, because this is all that was left!
 
 
as far as taste goes, i loved this stuff and fully intende to do it again and again - the seafood was great and i am looking forward to trying other ingredients - chicken, venison, who knows? the possibilities are endless!
 
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2010 at 04:22
Excellent paella, Ron- especially for a first time try! Clap You certainly have taken to your new camera cause those pictures were very good, and demonstrated the process to a tee. I think your list of ingredients was just right and a prefect example of what paella should be- whatever is available and in season! Looking forward to your next one!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2010 at 04:24
Great job there Ron...doggone it, I'm going to have to go out and get a paellera.
Guess I'll start looking for online deals first.
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 June 2010 at 13:39

thanks, guys - dave, the one i got through world market (www.worldmarket.com) looks to be just the ticket. you should be able to order through the website, or perhaps through the supplier, www.elavion.com.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Boilermaker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2011 at 20:20
It's about time for another paella.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 April 2012 at 19:43
Here's a great article on paella, for beginners or experts:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 September 2018 at 14:29
Since my original post, the paella kit above does not seem to be available anymore at World Market; however, you can get a paella pan from World Market:

https://www.worldmarket.com/product/15-inch-paella-pan.do

World Market also lists many ingredients and other foods that can be useful in planning a paella dinner.

Another great source for paella "fixin's" is La Tienda:

They list two paella kits that I would heartily recommend; although they are a little pricier than the first one I bought, I do find the quality and customer service at La Tienda to be first rate, so it is worth a try. The first is a "Mini Kit" intended for two people:

https://www.tienda.com/products/mini-paella-kit-peregrino-pa-10.html

The second is a more traditional kit that will feed 6:

https://www.tienda.com/products/traditional-paella-kit-peregrino-pa-02.html

Finally, the original company that I got m kit from, El Avion, offers paella kits in three sizes:

http://www.elavion.com/en/productos/paellas-arroz/

The site is a little hard to follow and navigate, so I recommend downloading the catalog and contacting the company directly; however, the company does indeed offer authentic, quality ingredients from Spain, as far as I can tell.+

(Note - please click on these links in order to check out these products; doing so helps this forum pay for itself! )

Hope this helps -

Ron
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