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SobaAddict70

Paella

127 posts in this topic

Long a fan of paella, I suspect that I've never had the "real deal", having never traveled to Spain or Portugal, but I do have a concept of what some variations are. For years I've made my own at home from a Jeff Smith recipe (the Frugal Gourmet). In general, the better the ingredient quality (e.g. using authentic Spanish paella rice rather than Canilla long grain rice, etc.), the better my results. I've always made a practice of doing a prolonged saute of the rice in the olive oil so it gets partially cooked and gains a golden lustre before adding the other ingredients. I've made it in vessels ranging from a big dented Revereware frying pan to a Cusinart 5.5 quart saute pan to an Calphalon paella pan. The only vessel I've never tried is an authentic carbon steel paella pan.

My taste preference is for a drier paella - one with less broth and a better texture to the rice. Much of what I've been served in the Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants in Newark NJ's Ironbound District has been heavy with broth and used cheap long grain rice. The taste was good but texture was lacking. On one occasion I had an outstanding dry paella at Iguana Cafe in NYC, a joint better known for its bar pick-up scene and downstairs dance floor action than for its Mexican food (yet it was actually the best paella I've ever had apart from my own).

A new bistro just opened near my current home. I know the owner both as a patron of her other restaurant and by virtue of a business connection (I installed their coffee brewing equipment). The menu features Spanish, Mediterranean and Moroccan inspired cuisine - a welcome change in a town overrun with chain restaurants and mediocre Italian joints.

I was thrilled to see Paella Mariscos on the menu - they're using real Spanish saffron (not the cheaper Mexican stuff that I use at home), real authentic Spanish paella rice, fresh peas, top quality shrimp etc. . My reaction to their paella after dining there is mixed. I'm not sure if it's an issue with their method of preparation or whether their style is closer to the authentic article and one I'm just not accustomed to.

The entire dish, particularly the rice, was nearly dark brown rather than golden in color and had a smokiness so overpowering that it almost seemed burnt. I was not able to taste the saffron - the nearly scorched character of the rice seemed to dominate. I'm inclined to go in and discuss it diplomatically with the chef but don't want to overstep my bounds.

So.... how smoky should smoky be and is "authentic" paella more akin to what they are serving or closer to what I've had elsewhere?

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Spain has some pretty bad paella in it as well.

I believe to be 'authentic' it has to be cooked by a man, outdoors using a paella. Everything else is open to debate. :smile:

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One place to find the strict rules laid out is an article in Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything. Adam is right about it having to be made outside; there are also arcane hierarchies of what ingredients are allowed and what aren't.

Having seen lots of paellas in Spain that clearly weren't cooked over a wood fire, stirred anticlockwise with a cedar wand by the light of moon etc., I assumed these rules were being exaggerated for the benefit of gullible foreigners.

But no. A Spanish friend of mine laughed at the thought that I might try to cook Paella inside, in England - even with the proper paella pan, the right rice, and the correct ingredients. And proceeded to explain to me The Rules, which sounded very much like Steingarten's.


Edited by Stigand (log)

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I would not worry too much about what is authentic or what is not... Even in Spain people have different opinions. I am Spanish, and I have my opinions...

But anyway, for me the key elements are a good broth, generous portion of saffron, and the rice.

If you are interested in recipes, Penelope Casas has several books with recipes for different paellas. I even think she has one just dedicated to paellas, but you might be better off getting one of her general books with all types of recipes.

If you can read Spanish, a search online might give you plenty of recipes by Spanish cooks as well.

I have cooked paella many times, and I am never happy with the results, always finding a problem with something...

Alex

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Id like to add my two cents and wear a journalist's hat: A few years back. a representative of the famous Valencian food market explained the difference between paellas and the family-style rice dishes called arroces in terms of gender. Paellas, she told me, are 'virile' dishes because they were originally prepared in wide steel pans in the countryside over a fire ( the smoke) by men who gathered snails, hunted rabbits, and caught duck or fresh watereels,.then cooked them with rice until the grains were plump with flavor yet still dry and slightly firm.

"Womanly' arroces, on the other hand, she told me with a straight face are meloso or soft and creamy. They are not cooked in shallow pans over a fire, but in deeper earthenware cazuelas.

Pimenton de la Vera can do a stand in for the 'smoky" aroma you want, but not necessary if you want to keep arroces and paellas in separate camps.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Id like to add my two cents  and wear a journalist's hat: A few years back. a representative of the famous Valencian food market explained the difference between paellas and the family-style rice dishes called arroces in terms of gender. Paellas, she told me, are 'virile' dishes because they were originally prepared in wide steel pans in the countryside over a fire ( the smoke) by men who gathered snails, hunted rabbits, and caught duck or fresh watereels,.then cooked them with rice until the grains were plump with flavor yet still dry and slightly firm. 

"Womanly' arroces, on the other hand, she told me with a straight face  are meloso  or soft and creamy. They are not cooked in shallow pans over a fire, but in deeper earthenware cazuelas.

Pimenton de la Vera can do a stand in for the 'smoky" aroma you want, but not necessary if you want to keep arroces and paellas  in separate camps.

I find that really interesting. Thank you.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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Paella is one of my favorite rice dishes. That doesn't mean I know the exhaustive history of it. I've read that the Moors brought rice to Valencia where Paella (pronounce the '"l" ) was born. I was also told by the Spanish owner of a restaurant in San Francisco that all Spanish speaking countries have an "authentic" version of it. What comes around goes around? Paella is also found in Oran, Algeria. It is called Paella there as well but we add some spices of course.

This reminds me about discussions of the origins of couscous.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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Going back to phaelon56's question, how burnt was burnt? I crisp browned bottom to the rice is good, but it should not be burnt black for instance. My paella is very large and covers four burners on the stove (we don't do 'outdoors' in Scotland), the bane of my paella existance is juggling the burners to avoid hotspots and burning.

I think of paella as a rich dish (quite oily infact), full of contrasting flavour (quail and clams are good), but without anything dominating too much. What I don't like is paella that resembles a pilau, rice being light, fluffy and lemon yellow.

One last thing, what is the correct way of pronouncing "paella". Non-Spanish types in Australia like me would say "PAY-el-lah", but in Valencia it sounded more "Pay-e-YAH". Discussions with non-Valencian Spanish speakers have not reached a consensus to date.

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I also make paella, but only 3 or 4 times a year. My thoughts are its all about the rice. Using short grain rice (I generally use arborio), and, when I am on my game, it is jus a little bit al dente.

My problems come after the rice is cooked as I finish the paella reheating some of the precooked ingredients, I often overcook the rice.

I have made it outdoors, and the smoke definitely adds character to the paella; however, I like stovetop as well.

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This is a very timely discussion for me, as I've put paella on the menu at work tomorrow night. If you had to choose from ordinary Uncle Ben's style rice, basmati rice and arborio rice, which would you use for this dish?

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Going back to phaelon56's question, how burnt was burnt? I crisp browned bottom to the rice is good, but it should not be burnt black for instance. My paella is very large and covers four burners on the stove (we don't do 'outdoors' in Scotland), the bane of my paella existance is juggling the burners to avoid hotspots and burning.

I think of paella as a rich dish (quite oily infact), full of contrasting flavour (quail and clams are good), but without anything dominating too much. What I don't like is paella that resembles a pilau, rice being light, fluffy and lemon yellow.

One last thing, what is the correct way of pronouncing "paella". Non-Spanish types in Australia like me would say "PAY-el-lah", but in Valencia it sounded more "Pay-e-YAH". Discussions with non-Valencian Spanish speakers have not reached a consensus to date.

The Spaniards I know all pronounce the l. The l can sound really subtle sometimes. But there are so many dialects within Spain and of course in the Spanish speaking world.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Difficult isn't it. The two spanish speakers that I work with (one from Madrid, one from Colombia) insist that the Spanish double "l" is spoken as an English "Y" sound. Yet I have heard otherwise. :rolleyes:

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This is a very timely discussion for me, as I've put paella on the menu at work tomorrow night. If you had to choose from ordinary Uncle Ben's style rice, basmati rice and arborio rice, which would you use for this dish?

Given your three choices, arborio. Uncle Bens in the trash bin. :rolleyes: Basmati is too fragrant, unless your looking to make an Indian style Paella.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Or you could break up some very thin (eggless) spaghetti into 1.5 inch lengths and make fideos instead. Just as authentic (if not more so) and in some ways much easier, especially in bulk.

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This is a very timely discussion for me, as I've put paella on the menu at work tomorrow night. If you had to choose from ordinary Uncle Ben's style rice, basmati rice and arborio rice, which would you use for this dish?

Given your three choices, arborio. Uncle Bens in the trash bin. :rolleyes: Basmati is too fragrant, unless your looking to make an Indian style Paella.

I fyour local grocery doesn't have authentic Spanish paella rice there is a brand grown in California which I've tried and found to be very good. Can't recall the name but it comes in square plastic jars - pricey but worth it. Otherwise I agree that the arborio rice is the closest. If I couldn't get that I'd use Canilla brand but never Uncle Ben's.

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Going back to phaelon56's question, how burnt was burnt? I crisp browned bottom to the rice is good, but it should not be burnt black for instance. My paella is very large and covers four burners on the stove (we don't do 'outdoors' in Scotland), the bane of my paella existance is juggling the burners to avoid hotspots and burning.

I think of paella as a rich dish (quite oily infact), full of contrasting flavour (quail and clams are good), but without anything dominating too much. What I don't like is paella that resembles a pilau, rice being light, fluffy and lemon yellow.

Yes... back to my original question is a good place to go. All of the rice was sort of dark brown and it was oily. I have no problem with the oiliness but the oil seemed to have a slightly burnt taste that dominated the dish. There were a few areas that were a trifle crispier towards the bottom but it was not a true socarrat and there was some residual broth to be found here and there interspersed with the other ingredients. It seems conceivable that it's very tricky to get the cookign of the rice just right, especially in a busy restaurant setting. I'm impressed by the fact that the type of rice, the cooking vessel etc are all being selected with careful attention to detail. It was also only their second week in business and I recognize that patience is necessary.

I absolutely could not taste the saffron. I know they are using real Spanish saffron and I'm sure they're not skimping on the required quantity (these folks do not skimp on quality). It seemed as though the carbon steel pan got so hot that perhaps the heat just got away from them?

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It shouldn't be oily. The dark brown color is strange to me. We've already discussed what's "authentic" so I won't go deeper into that.

The crust on the bottom is quite a treat. Properly made it should be nutty and very pleasant to eat. The permeating smokiness you are talking about wouldn't come from a properly made bottom crust. It sounds like the paella was burnt and perhaps transfered to a different pan.

Did it have sausage or smoked meat in it?


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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No... I have seen their kitchen and their cooking equipment (I installed their commercial coffee brewer just a week or two before they opened and had to run new plumbing in the kitchen. They are using carbon steel paella pans and it appears that the dish is cooked in the pan. Its' availabel only in a "one pan per person" size and the pan is socorchign blazing hot when they bring it out (it has a cloth napkin wrapped around the handles and underneath to prevent burns.

I don't believe they're cooking it separately and transferring it - I've had plenty of paella in Newark cooked that way however. They don't even have room to cook it in another vessel and transfer - the kitchen is tiny.

The owner does not believe in serving red meat of any type - only poultry and fish. When I chatted wit the chef prior to the opening he was planning to have chorizo availabel for those who requested it (the cured type - there's a decent commercial supplier in RI whose product is availabel locally - both chorizo and linguica). Not sure if the owner nixed that plan but when I inquired I was advised that they didn't have it that night.

We have a vendor at our local weekly farmer's marklet who sells fresh rabbit. I think I may have to get busy and start making my own again.

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Well then... I'm running out of possible reasons for the brown color and permeating smokiness. Liquid smoke or some other additive. Maybe burnt veal stock. They would be strange things to add though. But I've seen weirder stuff done to food.

Anyway, I won't know untill I try it.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

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Difficult isn't it. The two spanish speakers that I work with (one from Madrid, one from Colombia) insist that the Spanish double "l" is spoken as an English "Y" sound. Yet I have heard otherwise. :rolleyes:

The confusion is because there is more than one proper pronunciation of the double "l" in Spanish. How one pronounces the double "l" is dependent on where one has learned to speak the language. Making a broad generalization, I'd say the following is true.

Most of Latin America (Mexico, Peru, etc.): y as in "yes"

River Plate countries (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay): zh as in "vision"

Spain: ly as in "million" or y as in "yes"

I've traveled around Latin America but not to Spain so my experience with people from the latter is limited. I know I've heard that "ly" sound faintly from people from Spain but I'm not sure if it's consistent. Maybe I was hearing things. :biggrin:

So, I'd expect to hear variations of the word paella with the stress on the second to last syllable:

Pah-E-ya

Pah-E-zha

Pah-E-lya

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Ed - thank you very much for the detailed explanation, it is a small thing but it has been bugging me for a while now.

Regarding brown smoky paella. I'm begining to think that it was due to the over liberal use of smoked paprika.

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There is a little restaurant outside of Valencia, on an in-land fresh water lagoon near the natural springs where the rice grows -- that claims to have invented Paella Valenciana. At least that's their story. Still, there are a bunch of little restaurants in the same village that make incredible Paella. The ingredients all orginiate from there -- rice, safron, sea food, rabbit, pork, chicken, tomatoes and beans. Great ingredient and a great dish. Worth the flight. :-)

The smokey flavor might come from the rice at the bottom getting a little too browned and the flavor coming up through the rice. I've made a lot of mistakes, and have done that. The rice should be pretty brown on the bottom, and crunchy. You should need a steel spoon to get it all up.

Put the pan right on the table -- Paella can't be moved. They say you should let it rest, covered with a towel for a couple of minutes after it comes off the heat.

Have you seen the Paella rings the Spanish have? The come in a range of sizes, from a single round burner to three (or more) concrentric rings. They are propane fired, and sit on a tripod stand. You can hook them up (with a little work) to a U.S. LP tank. Don't know if you can get them on the Internet, but they're great if you can find one.

I also like that the Paella pans we have are measured by the number of people they serve, not the diameter. Very practial -- get me the 9 personne.

FB

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One more thing.

In villages around Valencia, you can see the older ladies carrying their paellas to the bakeries to cook on Saturday -- while the ovens are cooling off. Very charming.

Also, I have been baking Paella in a brick oven (without a fire in the oven), which is lots of fun.

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FornoBravo

How is Paella pronounced in Valencia?


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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My memory is no "L" before the "Y". I had to talk myself out of using it.

Pie ay yah.

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