Yesterday was a busy Sunday for us. We had to deal with the Daylight Savings Time change, which I think is totally pointless now. It was concocted to help save energy but that’s when we had the 1973 oil embargo. I think it should be done away with now that the US is actually leading oil production in the world. It messes with your internal clock and even the dogs were confused when it was 4:30 in the afternoon they wanted dinner!
We had to reschedule dinner plans with friends due to my travel schedule. One of the best parts about living in Los Angeles is that you can pretty much enjoy dinner outside year round. We decided to make Paella. But really you should know that it’s a dished named for the pan itself. The word comes from old Valencian (in Valencia they have their own language somewhat similar to Catalan) and probably has its roots in the Latin ‘patella’ meaning pan. The Paella pan is characterized by being round with a flat bottom.
The pan can be anywhere from a LP record 12 inches in diameter to several feet. The one thing that doesn’t change is the height. It is about first joint in the thumb deep as the Spanish would say, so that the rice has maximum contact with the bottom of the pan. I use to think when looking at Paella that it was just the Spanish version of Jambalaya, or the Italian Risotto. While there are similarities they really are quite different. Traditionally Jambalaya is cooked in a round pot over a fire, and Paella is cooked in a flat pan over high heat. We have a great built in gas grill and have used the paella pan on it once before. It’s a little slower than a conventional stove and certainly slower than the traditional method of an open wood fire to cook on but it does the trick.
We were very lucky to have had a chance to get the real deal while traveling through Spain. Friends who lived in Madrid for a while recommended we go to this amazing restaurant that came with the smells of a wood fire right when you walked up to the entrance. The authenticity of Spanish Paella is not easily copied but with enough practice I’m sure anyone can make it to their liking. We’ve seen the version of the pan that looks like it could feed a small town to the size we have that feeds about 10 people easily. There are different varieties of how it’s made, chicken, pork, seafood, all of the above but they all have rice and loads of flavor.
My version is simple, chicken, green beans, rice, tomatoes, a little garlic, saffron stems and green and red peppers. This batch I had some great olives in the fridge and we had picked up Spanish chorizo, the hard cured kind. I tried not to get too ambitions with the heat so I just used sweet smoke paprika and salt and pepper. The chicken was seasoned with a little cayenne pepper. It’s basically like making risotto when it comes to adding the liquid which is typically a flavored broth like chicken. You just keep a liquid until the rice can’t take any more or until the rice is ‘al dente’ to your liking.
The result is a very creamy and moist dish, the chicken has absorbed all the flavors of the spices and broth, the vegetables have cooked down to a soft texture. I’m very proud of the result.