The Sabbath, Sundays, a glorious day for spending precious time with family and loved ones. Abstinence from work is important this day, and paella creation technically is “work,” but it’s fun work, and gratifying work.
Paella has a storied history as the culinary pride and joy of Spain. My Dad hails from Barcelona, and my earliest memories of paella are with him obsessing over and creating the dish. I can still taste his “best shot” back in 1996 before the Evander Holyfield/Mike Tyson match. The fight was a bust but the paella he conjured over our many glasses of Spanish Rioja and tapas to this day resonates deeply. One key ingredient he used that time was Lobster, and was it glorious.
The key to a grand paella is simplicity through and through; minimal ingredients, minimalist pan, and minimal distractions to facilitate concentration and focus. A reliable heat source is critical – and to achieve that you have to use a barbecue grill, preferably outdoors in keeping with tradition. A 17″ inch pan is essential, any smaller and you won’t have the room to dial in texture via the socarret – the smoky charred rice. You can find everything pan-wise on Amazon of course, but I recommend The Spanish Table. They stock a lot of unique ingredients including squid ink, and other accessories to help curate a memorable paella.
Todays ingredient list: Spanish Bomba rice (a necessity,) olive/avocado oil blend, squid, shrimp, live mussels, organic red bell pepper, haricot verts, artichoke hearts, shiitake mushrooms & sliced olives. For the soffrito (tomato base) again simplicity reigns: 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 chopped onion and san Marzano tomatoes seasoned with smoked Spanish paprika.
Your liquid (stock) has a huge impact on the dish’s flavor as it permeates the rice and bathes the rest of your ingredients. The old school Paelleros in Spain use plain old water and I think this is your best bet, but dressed up a bit. Use clean filtered water with a few peppercorns, bay leaf and several pinches of Saffron to infuse the liquid. Cover the pan and simmer for 50 minutes and your stock will be loaded with flavor.
An indispensable resource for paella creativity and technique is Chef Alberto Herraiz from Cuenca, Spain – Province of Castilla-La Mancha in Central Spain. His simply titled tome, Paella is a necessity – required reading; incredible recipes, tips, history and insight.
This dish can easily become an obsession so be forewarned. The beauty of paella really comes down to the creator (the paellero,) your company and the infinite approaches to making the dish. No paella is ever the same, almost like Live performance, glory is fleeting ~ and the moment comes and goes. Be in the moment, and make your next Sunday a Paella Sunday.