Paella the Queen of Spanish Food


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               Many Spaniards, and not only, would acknowledge that ” Paella” is the Queen of Spanish food and to determine exactly what it contains is almost impossible. Valencia, the Mediterranean  port in Eastern part of Spain is the recognized capital of paella. Why? First of all, the area around the city has been one of the most important rice producing area in Spain  since rice was brought here by the moors  over 1200 years ago. In fact, the Spanish word for rice is ‘arroz’, which is derived from Arabic, not Latin like most of Castilian Spanish. There is a widely accepted original recipe, for a dish that has remained more or less constant through the ages. The original paella  “Valenciana” dates back to the early 1800 and was made with rabbit and snails, together with saffron infused rice and green beans.  Today, the main ingredients remain the same,  (rice,  saffron ) and everything else goes just fine: chicken, rabbit, pork or seafood, as long as this wonderful dish is shared with loved ones.  Paella, or as our locals call  it “arroz”  (rice) is one of the most sociable and enjoyable activities in a Spanish family reunion, especially on Sundays  or any other special occasion. 

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Giant Paella – Feria de Casabermeja

The word paella, comes from the Latin word patella, and means pan and has similar meaning in French, “poelle” and Italian, “padella”.  Many other cultures  have similar dish: Jambalaya, in the French quarter of New Orleans,  rizotto in Italy, Pilau in Middle East, Biryani in India,  just to name few, very few of this amazing and resourceful dish (wiki).  This is how  we make our paella and so far, the most complex recipe I am posting on my blog. Don’t forget, you can be creative,  this dish can be customized to everyone’s liking.

Ingredients:

(serves 4-6 people)

2 lb. cubed chicken breast (lean pork would work just fine too, or half pork, half chicken).

8-10 fresh mussels (not frozen)

8-10 large shrimps

1 lb. medium grain rice (arroz Bomba – not washed)

1 cup frozen green peas

1/2 cup diced red pepper

1 medium onion finely diced

2 cloves garlic chopped

 2 cups tomato sauce

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup dry white wine

4 cups water

1 Tbs smoked Spanish paprika

8 saffron threads or  1 tsp  yellow natural colorant

4 Tbs olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Preparation:

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan (paellera). If you do not have a paella pan, you can use a large flat type pan, however, do not use a wok pan.

Add the cubed chicken (or pork) and fry until it turns golden.

Set aside the meat and in the remaining oil, fry the onion,  garlic and peppers until everything is soft and translucent (this is called soffritto) .

Add the saffron or colorant, paprika, salt and pepper mix well.

Add the  rice and move it around so is evenly coated and spread in the pan.

Add the cooked meat, with its juices and mix well.

Add the tomato sauce and mix well.

Add the white wine, and wait 2 minutes for the alcohol to steam away.

Continue by adding the chicken stock, and later the water. These liquids  will help remove what is starting to stick to the pan.

Move the ingredients around so that everything is evenly spread out. Leave it to cook at medium to high heat until it starts boiling, at which point turn down to low the heat and let simmer.

Add the peas.

If you need to stir the paella,  shake  the pan (left and right) and not  mix the ingredients with a spoon or spatula.

When the rice is almost cooked, add the shrimps, and the mussels in a decorative way. Leave the paella cooking until the seafood is properly cooked. This depends on the size  and thickness of the ingredients. After approximately  10 minutes, turn the heat down.

When the shrimps obtain a pink colo, try the rice to see if it is “al dente”  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Decorate the paella with lemon wedges  which will give the last aroma to the dish.

Note: Paella usually has a layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan. This is considered a delicacy in Spain and it is essential to a good paella. The toasted rice develops on its own if the paella is cooked over a burner or open fire (wiki).

 Enjoy!

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Paella

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