I held a cooking class in Richmond, VA. As part of our menu
our class prepared a Spanish dish called Paella. I was surprised
to learn that many people had either not had paella before
or had never even heard of it. Since paella is so wonderful
and is one of those dishes that is naturally gluten-free I
thought that it would be nice to take our subscribers through
a crash course on making delicious paella.
|Techniques & Tips You Will
Learn in this Class
- What is paella?
- Choosing the right rice
- The importance of the paella pan
- Using the right heat source
- The Sofrito
- The cooking liquid
- A great paella recipe
- Serving paella
What is Paella?
Paella is a wonderful dish originating in
Valencia, Spain. It is a complete meal dish with vegetables,
meat and of course its star - the rice. Originally it
was made with rabbit and snails, however, over the course
of years it has since been modified in many ways to include
a variety of meats, fish and vegetables. Every chef will undoubtedly
prepare paella in slightly different ways with different ingredients
the general recipe you will learn in this months class
is just a guide. Once you get a feel for how this dish comes
together you will see how easy it is to adjust with ingredients
you love and subtle flavor differences you enjoy.
There are several "rules" of paella
which carry through to virtually all versions. Understanding
these "rules" will help you create a good foundation
for your paella and ultimately a great tasting, authentic
the Right Rice
The rice used in paella should be a medium-grain
rice. Medium-grain rice absorbs liquid well and it stays relatively
firm during the cooking process. The rice should be dry and
separate when done not creamy like risotto. The most appreciated
Spanish rice is bomba, but youll have good success with
the more commonly available medium-grain rice sold by Goya.
Many chefs will also use Arborio which is also an acceptable
The Importance of the Paella Pan
A true paella pan is wide, round and shallow
and has splayed sides. It does not have a lid. It has two
looped handles and may dip slightly in the middle so the oil
can pool there for the preliminary sautéing. The shape
of the pan ensures that the rice cooks in a thin layer. The
key is to maximize the amount of rice touching the bottom
of the pan because that is where the flavor lives.
Using the Right Heat
heat source should accommodate the whole paella pan so make
sure your flame or element is large enough to cover the complete
bottom surface area of your pan. You can also cook paella
outdoors on a large gas or charcoal grill, or even a wood
fire which is how it is done at paella competitions
The Sofrito is the
sauté of aromatics which provides the flavor base to
the paella. The components vary by region and by chef. Tomato,
onion, and garlic are a common trio for the Sofrito.
Some chefs use paprika, herbs or dried peppers. The technique
is simple sauté the vegetables over medium heat
until they soften and the flavors meld and the water from
the tomato has evaporated. This mixture should be thick enough
to hold its shape in a spoon.
The Cooking Liquid
A flavorful liquid cooks the rice while
giving it additional flavor. You can use chicken, vegetable
or fish stock or you can use water which many home cooks do
in Spain. Almost every paella recipe will call for saffron
which contributes to the color as well as add a subtle flavor
to the rice.
Now we know the basic elements of paella,
so lets start cooking. In this class we will prepare
our Paella again, feel free to modify. In our last
cooking class in Virginia we had several people who were allergic
to shellfish so we omitted the shrimp altogether and the end
result was still superb.
- 1 dried Anaheim chile
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 cups gf chicken stock
- Pinch of saffron threads
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 24 unpeeled large shrimp (about 2 pounds)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 gf hot-Italian
sausages, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 chicken thighs, skinned, boned and
cut into 4 pieces
- 2-1/2 cups finely chopped red bell pepper
- 2 cups finely chopped onion
- 2 cups sliced zucchini
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 teaspoon hot paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice or other
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen)
- 8 lime wedges
Step 1: Prepare the cooking liquid
To prepare the broth, remove stem and seeds
from chile. Combine the chile, cumin, cinnamon, and 2 garlic
cloves in a food processor; process until minced. Combine
chile mixture, broth and a pinch of saffron in a saucepan.
Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
2: Prepare an herb blend
To prepare herb blend, combine cilantro,
lime juice, olive oil, and 2 garlic cloves. Set aside.
3: Prepare the Meat/Fish
To prepare paella, peel and de-vein shrimp,
leaving tails intact; set aside. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in large
paella pan or large skillet over medium heat. Add sausages;
sauté 3 minutes. Remove from pan. Add chicken; sauté
3 minutes. Remove from pan. Add shrimp; sauté 2 minutes.
Remove from pan.
4: Prepare the Sofrito
Add bell pepper and onion to the pan and
sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini;
sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, paprika, salt, and 3
garlic cloves; cook 5 minutes, scraping pan to loosen browned
bits. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Step 5: Bring the Paella Together
Stir in broth, herb blend, sausages, and
corn; cook 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. (Periodically
taste and adjust seasonings to taste with salt and freshly
ground black pepper.) Arrange shrimp, heads down, in rice
mixture. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover with a towel,
and let stand for 10 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.
For variety try our Spanish
Paella or our Spanish
Paella with Chorizo Sausage.
Traditionally paella was served in communal
style. The pan was placed in the center of the table and the
guests ate directly from the pan. If this is not your style,
place the paella pan in the center of the table and let your
guests serve themselves. This is not a dish that is meant
to be plated for each individual person.
We hope you enjoy this flavorful dish. It
may at first look like a very involved process but if you
take each step on its own it really comes together very quickly.
For a different dinner party idea, have your guests help you
prepare the paella giving each guest a different task.
This makes a very fun and rewarding dinner for all to enjoy!