The elusive and mythical paella

Unbelievable, in over ten years (wow this is an old blog) I have never dedicated a post to paella. This must be corrected at once.

You see, paella -the right paella- is a divine dish, it combines earthy flavors with spices, and rice, what is there not to like? Now to be clear I am speaking here about the original paella, Valencia paella which has as main ingredients: chicken, rabbit, snails, flat green beans, and local flat white beans, Garrofó. Ah yes, I hear the murmurs about seafood, and chorizo, and all kinds of ingredients… in time, my dear reader, in time.

Like everybody else in Spain and around the world, I have always eaten paella. But it was not until the early nineties that I started travelling regularly to Valencia that I discovered the real deal. Once you have that experience you will never feel the same about paella. I was lucky to have friends and customers that indulged me in taking me to real paella places, where it is prepared outdoors, on open fires of orange tree wood!

Although the first reported recipe for paella is from the mid 19th C, it was the Moors who brought rice to the Albufera lagoon outside Valencia. Also, the word paella comes from the old Arabic pallac (sp?) which means leftovers. Therefore, it is understandable that the original recipes had no pork nor seafood ingredients!

If you travel Spain’s Eastern shore you are going to find hundreds of rice recipes, with seafood, black rice, with all sorts of ingredients -but they are not called paella, but arroz negro, arroz a banda, arroz caldoso, whatever whatever…

To make paella you need to meet a few requirements: ideally you have an open fire, you also need the paella, which is the name of the flat pan used to make the namesake dish. As far as the ingredients, forget it, you are not going to find the exact ingredients, bomba rice has little starch compared to the closest equivalent, Arborio, etc., etc. Paella is a totally local dish, appreciate that and move on.

I had often been paella sous chef, but I did not venture into making my own paellas until I had a gas grill and a paella pan in Boston around ten years ago. After leaving Boston I had a paella making hiatus until recently. As my followers will know, I bought a grill a few months ago, and then I bought a paella pan at the great purveyor of Spanish food, La Tienda. I love making paella, even if it is a mere imitation paella, it is as close as you can get outside Valencia. Let me know in the comments if you want my recipe and American ingredients, or if you have any other comments.

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