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snowangel

Paella--Cook-Off 31

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Welcome to this edition of the eG Cook-Off! Click here for the eG Cook-Off index.

This time around, paella is going to be on the table. I've had it but once or twice, and this eG Cook-Off now a bit about preparing it -- what to include, what to exclude, what kind of rice to use, and the appropriate cookware.

There is a bit of stuff floating around here on making paella, including the Paella topic, one on fideua (a noodle paella) and a couple on paella pans (one on carbon steel vs. stainless steel and another on smooth vs. pebbley interiors).

There's also a recipe in RecipeGullet for Rice with Salt Cod, Chickpeas and Red Peppers and one for a Seafood Paella.

Then, there are books about paella. The first one that came to mind was one I saw at the library a few days ago: Paella!: Spectacular Rice Dishes From Spain by Penelope Casas. There's also La Paella: Deliciously Authentic Rice Dishes from Spain's Mediterranean Coast by Jeff Koehler.

I know nothing about cooking paella, just that I like it! For starters, do I really need to buy a paella pan for something I won't cook very often? Are there absolutely required ingredients?

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Ok, let's start with the principles:

- A paella is a pan; the catalonian name for pan is paella. So the proper name of the dish should be rice on paella.

- A paella is also a culinary technique mixing rice fields and orchards, so it changes if we are in the mountain or by the sea.

- A Paella Valenciana is the proper and original dish, but this said there is not a single paella valenciana but thousands.

- A rice cooked in paella is a tricky dish as the rice needs to be dried out during the cooking process without stirring at all. Otherwise the rice will turn sticky.

- The thinner the rice layer the better as all the grains will be cooked at the same time. So we will need a large pan even for just two eaters.

- The rice should be a round grain rice from the japonica variety, being Senia, Bomba, Bahía and Vialone Nano the best options for a paella dried rice as these rices contains a high amilose level taking all the substance from the stock where they have been cooked.

- Bomba rice is like a life saver, it needs four times more water than rice to be cooked but it has a wider cooking point.

- The paella should be cooked over a wood fire as this brings the best chances to increase or decrease the fire in order to evaporate the whole stock where the rice is being cooked and also add the smoke flavours which are as important as the saffron. If wood fire is not available gas is the only option, vitro or electric stoves doesn't work for paella. As neither does an oven work because the stock needs to evaporate from the bottom leaving a burnt thin crust formed on the bottom of the paella.

- There are two main paella styles:

a) Valencian way: Adding the rice once the stock is done.

b) Alicante’s way: Adding the rice from the first moment.

With all these premises, here’s my mother in law (My wife is from Castellón, 50 miles away from Valencia) recipe for paella valenciana:

Add olive oil in the paella, just enough to cover the bottom. And a bit of salt. Once the oil has been warmed up add the rabbit and the chicken, previously chopped, with it’s livers and let it slowly braise on the paella. About 15 minutes later she adds the "ferraura", a type of green beans that is only used for the paella. It is necessary to stir it well as otherwise the rice softens. Like ten minutes after "ferraúra", she adds the "garrofó", a variety of white and squashed string bean that must appear in a proper paella if it wants to deserve the name of valenciana. A few minutes later she adds natural and chopped tomato adding salt and a bit of sugar. Five minutes later, water enough to cover the whole paella borders. This is the moment to add a generous dose of "xonetas", a particularly aromatic variety of the snail called "vaqueta", wild snails feed with rosemary. (if you can't find sanils use a rosemary branch). When the water starts boiling is the time to add the previously burned saffron. Now it’s time to let the water evaporate slowly until the water level reaches the measured point. This is twice the volume of the rice (If it is bomba it should be four times). That’s when she adds carefully the rice all over the paella and increases the fire heat and waits until all the stock is evaporated, this should take no more than 18-20 minutes. Now she covers the paella with a large paper and let it rest for a few minutes and serve the whole paella in the table centre so that it will be reached easily by all of us.

So in this paella the stock is done in the paella itself. If we were talking about a seafood paella, this will be called arroz a banda and we should have made a fish stock first.

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Rice with rabbit and snails at casa Paco in Pinoso cooked over vine branches.

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ETA pictures.


Edited by Rogelio (log)
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Oh wow! I am enamoured, in love.

I have to cook this, and am clueless. Nothing wrong with this food.

Thanks Rogelio. That helped, a lot.

Will report back.

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Wow, Rogelio, that's interesting. So you want to end up with 4x the volume water/rice after the evaporation? Do you start with about 6x? 8x?

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::bows to the food God::

Everything about that looked spectacular!

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The paella should be cooked over a wood fire as this brings the best chances to increase or decrease the fire in order to evaporate the whole stock where the rice is being cooked and also add the smoke flavours which are as important as the saffron.

I have been schooled on this from my friend who is from Seville so we always cook paella outside on our backyard firepit or when we go camping (it is fantastic for camping!)

I like paella with chicken (hubby doesn't do bunny) prawns, chorizo, and clams.

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Wow, Rogelio, that's interesting.  So you want to end up with 4x the volume water/rice after the evaporation?  Do you start with about 6x?  8x?

Yes, 4x if you're using bomba or Vialone nano rice. 2'5x if you're using the other rices.

And yes, you start with about 6-8x.

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The paella should be cooked over a wood fire as this brings the best chances to increase or decrease the fire in order to evaporate the whole stock where the rice is being cooked and also add the smoke flavours which are as important as the saffron.

I have been schooled on this from my friend who is from Seville so we always cook paella outside on our backyard firepit or when we go camping (it is fantastic for camping!)

Could I build a wood fire in my grill and cook the paella over that? Will the cast iron grates be a problem?

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I don't think it would be, would it, Todd? Maybe I'm not understanding the question -- though I think I have a similar one. Can a stainless shallow pan be used in a charcoal grill as above? I'm just a little worried about what'll happen to the pan if I immerse it in the grill, but, well, maybe I'm just being paranoid.

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Nice post Rogelio, beautiful photos.

Finally I can ask an expert. Perhaps you could tell us how the word Paella is pronounced. I'm surprised no one asked this already. Here in the states I've heard:

Payeya

Payella

Payellya.

Thanks.

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Nice post Rogelio, beautiful photos.

Finally I can ask an expert. Perhaps you could tell us how the word Paella is pronounced. I'm surprised no one asked this already. Here in the states I've heard:

Payeya

Payella

Payellya.

Thanks.

:biggrin:

We, the spaniards pronouce it pa-el-ya.

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I don't think it would be, would it, Todd? Maybe I'm not understanding the question -- though I think I have a similar one. Can a stainless shallow pan be used in a charcoal grill as above? I'm just a little worried about what'll happen to the pan if I immerse it in the grill, but, well, maybe I'm just being paranoid.

Here is my concern. I've got a thin paella pan that I picked up ages ago in Valencia. If I build a fire in the grill, insert the cast iron grates, and place the paella pan on top of the grates, then I'll have the very hot cast iron grates in direct contact with the pan. This seems like a sure recipe for scorched rice.

Rogelio's photos show the pan suspended above the flames. I wonder if I need to rig up the barbecue grill so that the pan can hang a few inches above the flames without using the grates.


Edited by TAPrice (log)

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What about putting a wok ring on the grates of the grill? Or, what about using the weber wok?

Typically, what are paellas (the pans) made of?

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What about putting a wok ring on the grates of the grill?   Or, what about using the weber wok?

Typically, what are paellas (the pans) made of?

A wok ring could be an excellent solution.

My pan is made of thin steel.

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Typically, what are paellas (the pans) made of?

Paella pans are usually made of steel. Nowadays they do them with a teflon cover but I don't like them.

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Snowangel, thanks for starting this topic. I’ve never made paella before and am dying to give it a shot. And Rogelio, thanks for the great post and pictures, it is great to have an expert to guide us. I would love to go the authentic whole hog, but unfortunately, my first paella attempt is going to be on a large frying pan on the kitchen stove (it's gas)! I have yet to decide what type of paella I’m going to make.

One thing I would like to ask: when you use snails, do you buy them ready prepared in jars or do you de-gorge them yourself? We have loads of snails (and some rosemary) in our garden, and I’d considered harvesting them. The only thing is, I’m not sure I could eat them after being involved in the process!

The only recipes I have are in “Moro The Cookbook” by Sam and Sam Clark (well known London restaurateurs) and Larousse Gastronomique. The Larousse recipe uses chicken, squid, mussels, cockles, clams, langoustines, chorizo and an assortment of vegetables, and the pan is covered and finished in the oven for 20 minutes. From what you say, this doesn't appear to be authenitic (more like a pilav?) as it won't give the crusty base.

There are 3 recipes in the Moro cookbook: paella of chicken, artichokes and oloroso; paella of pork, chorizo and spinach; and paella of monkfish with saffron. The Moro recipes stress that a paella should not be stirred, (just shake the pan) and say to cover the rice (off the heat) for the last 3-5 minutes to allow the grains to swell up, so along the lines of yours.

Also, is saffron an ingredient that is only used in some paellas? Are there any rules on what can be mixed together from a meat/seafood POV?

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Snowangel, thanks for starting this topic. I’ve never made paella before and am dying to give it a shot. And Rogelio, thanks for the great post and pictures, it is great to have an expert to guide us. I would love to go the authentic whole hog, but unfortunately, my first paella attempt is going to be on a large frying pan on the kitchen stove (it's gas)! I have yet to decide what type of paella I’m going to make.

A large pan and a gas stove can work as a start. But it will have to be for very few people, no more than two.

One thing I would like to ask: when you use snails, do you buy them ready prepared in jars or do you de-gorge them yourself? We have loads of snails (and some rosemary) in our garden, and I’d considered harvesting them. The only thing is, I’m not sure I could eat them after being involved in the process!

I buy them already clean at the valencian markets, though I have to boil them and leave in water for a whole night before adding them to the paella, so the best thing you can do is adding a rosemary branch.

The only recipes I have are in “Moro The Cookbook” by Sam and Sam Clark (well known London restaurateurs) and Larouse Gastronomique. The Larouse recipe uses chicken, squid, mussels, cockles, clams, langoustines, chorizo and an assortment of vegetables, and the pan is covered and finished in the oven for 20 minutes. From what you say, this doesn't appear to be authenitic (more like a pilav?) as it won't give the crusty base.

There are 3 recipes in the Moro cookbook: paella of chicken, artichokes and oloroso; paella of pork, chorizo and spinach; and paella of monkfish with saffron. The Moro recipes stress that a paella should not be stirred, (just shake the pan) and say to cover the rice (off the heat) for the last 3-5 minutes to allow the grains to swell up, so along the lines of yours.

The Larousse turns gastric, not gastronomic, when talking about spanish food so don't trust it.

The Moro recipes are fine but innovative, ahead from the tradition.

Also, is saffron an ingredient that is only used in some paellas? Are there any rules on what can be mixed together from a meat/seafood POV?

Safrron is essential on every paella, being a seafood one, vegetables one, meat one or a mixed one.

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:biggrin:

We, the spaniards pronouce it pa-el-ya.

Thanks Rogelio.

TAPrice

Try this. Three cinder blocks or pavers at least 8" high. Arranged in a U shape on the ground. Build and feed the fire through the front.

gallery_39290_4300_57729.jpg

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Nice post Rogelio, beautiful photos.

Finally I can ask an expert. Perhaps you could tell us how the word Paella is pronounced. I'm surprised no one asked this already. Here in the states I've heard:

Payeya

Payella

Payellya.

Thanks.

:biggrin:

We, the spaniards pronouce it pa-el-ya.

Really?

In my Spanish class we were taught that two ll's together is a different letter (eyye), and that the word would be pronounced "pa-EY-ya". No sound of an L, anywhere in the word. Did my teacher lie to me, or give me a Mexican spin on the language?

Pronunciation or no, those are gorgeous photos and a wonderful tutorial.

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Try this. Three cinder blocks or pavers at least 8" high. Arranged in a U shape on the ground. Build and feed the fire through the front.

gallery_39290_4300_57729.jpg

An excellent idea, but my house is an urban area with a tiny yard. I'm going to have to keep my fires safely within a grill.


Edited by TAPrice (log)

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Nice post Rogelio, beautiful photos.

Finally I can ask an expert. Perhaps you could tell us how the word Paella is pronounced. I'm surprised no one asked this already. Here in the states I've heard:

Payeya

Payella

Payellya.

Thanks.

:biggrin:

We, the spaniards pronouce it pa-el-ya.

Really?

In my Spanish class we were taught that two ll's together is a different letter (eyye), and that the word would be pronounced "pa-EY-ya". No sound of an L, anywhere in the word. Did my teacher lie to me, or give me a Mexican spin on the language?

Pronunciation or no, those are gorgeous photos and a wonderful tutorial.

I think you're right Smithy, my fonetical english is not that good.

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Nice post Rogelio, beautiful photos.

Finally I can ask an expert. Perhaps you could tell us how the word Paella is pronounced. I'm surprised no one asked this already. Here in the states I've heard:

Payeya

Payella

Payellya.

Thanks.

:biggrin:

We, the spaniards pronouce it pa-el-ya.

Really?

In my Spanish class we were taught that two ll's together is a different letter (eyye), and that the word would be pronounced "pa-EY-ya". No sound of an L, anywhere in the word. Did my teacher lie to me, or give me a Mexican spin on the language?

Pronunciation or no, those are gorgeous photos and a wonderful tutorial.

I think you're right Smithy, my fonetical english is not that good.

Well, I'm relieved that I won't have to go track down Señor Padilla and take him to task for misleading us. Thank you for that.

Meanwhile, I'm still fascinated and gratified by your beautiful photos and marvelous instructions! I think this may be the first time I've seen rice left uncovered while it cooks. If I'm seeing this correctly, the paella is left uncovered while the stock evaporates and cooks the rice at the same time. In a pilaf, the rice is left covered until it cooks. I wonder what difference that makes with texture? Any ideas, anyone?

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The rice is dry, almost crunchy and with all the flavour of the stock where it has been cooked.

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Try this. Three cinder blocks or pavers at least 8" high. Arranged in a U shape on the ground. Build and feed the fire through the front.

gallery_39290_4300_57729.jpg

An excellent idea, but my house is an urban area with a tiny yard. I'm going to have to keep my fires safely within a grill.

Is there perhaps a public park or recreation area that has shared outdoor grills? In my area, the State recreation areas have almost a fire pit setup anyway. Might be a good excuse to get out on the weekend and enjoy the Spring weather, but the logistics would be elaborate.

I think I am going stove top, and am only preparing for hubby and myself so it should be OK. I do have a very large bullet type smoker though, that just might do the trick. It already has a place to suspend the pan, and a side loader. Hmm, that should work if I can find the right sized pan...

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Here is my effort at paella, which I did on Sunday.

gallery_26110_4104_62403.jpg

I used chicken thighs, chorizo and shrimp. The veggies included artichoke, peas and roasted red pepper. I had homemade stock, Bomba rice and smoked paprika. We liked it.

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