The Perfect Paella

This is the catalyst that started the whole idea for a blog challenge. A dear friend of mine insisted that I post a recipe to go with the new pan she bought. So Teresa, it’s finally here.

Acquiring your own Paella pan is almost a rite of passage. It represents a level of passion (or addiction) to something that is uniquely special. Yes, you can create Spanish style rice dishes without a paella pan, but it will lack the authenticity (anything outside of Spain lacks authenticity) and most certainly the caramelized crunchy bits at the bottom of the pan called socarrat. But what makes paella so desirable is not only the great taste, but it is the experience of partaking together with the closest of friends. Paella is about family and friends. So with this in mind, this post is to celebrate my friend and the bond that exists which is greater than food. Thank you Teresa for your friendship. I wish we could enjoy this together.
So with the flowery introductions out of the way we can get down to the specifics of a sticky, crunchy, aromatic paella worthy of it’s reputation. I’m no expert but there are at least five things that you must have to create a beautiful paella:
  • The correct rice: You need a medium grain Spanish rice. Long grain will not work!  If, like me, you have no access to Spanish varieties, arborio is a good substitute.
  • Sofrito: This is the base for your paella. It is a blend of tomatoes, red pepper, onions and garlic all simmered in a little olive oil until the flavours have melded into a nice paste.
  • A paella pan: A shallow steel pan with two handles
  • Saffron: Having a wonderfully aromatic smell and an intense flavour, it is not hard to imagine this being the world’s most expensive spice. Each thread of saffron is the hand picked stamens of the crocus plant.
  • Spanish smoked paprika: This is not the regular run of the mill flavourless red powder found at your local supermarket.  Intensely aromatic and robust in flavour this smokey powder permeates the entirety of the paella leaving a wonderful taste in your mouth long after you have eaten.
What you need for the sofrito:
  • 3 ripe tomatoes grated (on a box grater)
  • 2 medium onions finely diced
  • 1 red pepper rough chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil (more if needed)
How it’s done (sofrito):
  • In a saute pan heat the olive oil and add all the ingredients.
  • Simmer over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until the sofrito has become a nice paste. It should be the consistency of apple sauce.
What you need for the paella:
  • 1.5 cups of Spanish rice
  • sofrito (from above)
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 2 artichoke hearts (I use frozen, thawed and chopped thin)
  • 4 saffron threads (disolved in a little warm stock)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1-1.5 litres chicken stock (more if needed)
  • salt and pepper as needed
  • olive oil as needed
How it’s done:
  • Cut the chicken breast into bite sized pieces and fry in your paella pan with a little oil until done.
  • Remove and fry the artichokes adding more oil as needed.
  • Cut the sausage and fry the same as the chicken. Remove when done.
  • Over medium heat, add the rice, sofrito, paprika, saffron, and half the stock.
  • Simmer over med heat for about 10 min. (add more stock if it looks to dry)
  • Do not stir with a spoon or you will disturb the crust. Shake the pan from side to side to move the rice around.
  • Turn the heat to low and add the rest of the stock and simmer for another 10 min, adjusting the liquid as needed.
  • Take the chicken, artichokes and chorizo and press them into the top of the rice.
  • Cover with a little foil and simmer for another 5 min or so until the rice is done and the meat is hot.
  • Now all you have to do is invite your friends over and partake together.

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