What’s In Your Paella?

Ancient Roots

     Paella is a rice dish that has ancient roots. Its modern form originated in the mid-19th century in the area around the east coast of Spain adjacent to the city of Valencia.  Paella is also the name of the specialized shallow pan used for this dish.

     There’s not much of a consensus regarding how this delicious dish, perhaps Spain’s most famous, should be prepared. Also, what should, or shouldn’t go into it is an issue. The original recipes went from being relatively simple to including a wide variety of seafood, meat, sausage (including chorizo).

The Cooking Method

     The cooking method formerly involved a dish forged over open fires. This endowed it with all the advantages such cooking confers—crisp, flame-licked edges, smoke-tinged meat. But then paella became something that was made indoors in a restaurant setting. Today you can find the odd wood-fire holdout at rural Spanish restaurants, at family gatherings, and local festivals. It seems the heyday of the traditional vine-wood-fired paella has passed.

     To echo the woodsy taste formerly imparted by smoke, cooks will often toss in some smoked paprika or a few sprigs of rosemary (which appeared in many traditional paella recipes anyway). Sometimes cooks start their paellas on the stove and finish them over a wood-burning fire or grill.

https://rmillerdinnerparty.com/recipes/paella-a-convivial-dish/     The longer it cooks, the darker and more intensely flavored the paella will be. Also indisputable is this: once you’ve stirred the rice with the stock, you leave it alone, uncovered. When the rice is cooked through, after 20 minutes or so, some cooks blast heat to the bottom of the pan. This creates a flavorful crust, called socarrat, on the bottom of the pan.

     Most Valencians seem to follow a well-thumbed script. The paella pan is set on the table and diners scoop up their portions with wooden spoons. You want to make sure to get plenty of pieces of burnished meat or vegetables and to scrape up some of the chewy, caramelized socarrat. The tradition is to start at the perimeter and work your way to the center. It’s a convivial way to eat, no matter what’s in your paella.

For recipe click on Paella.

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