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Gustavore Showstopper: Paella

A couple hours and a really long list of ingredients, but worth the effort.

My husband loves paella, so when we were in Valencia, I took him to Les Graelles, a traditional restaurant that claimed to have actually invented paella.

At least that is what I think they claimed.

They probably didn’t invent paella since the company that owns the restaurant has only been in business since 1893 and Wikipedia says that in 1840, a Spanish newspaper first used the Catalan word paella to refer to the recipe rather than the pan. In any event, we enjoyed their paella and the experience very much.

Not long after that, I received a paella-themed gift from my husband: a huge (5 quart) Calphalon Sauteuse pan with lid, Nick Stellino’s “Mediterranean Flavors” cookbook, a couple pounds of Valencian rice and 4 grams of saffron. Subtle hint?

Nick’s recipe is one of the few that I follow to the letter, with the exception of doubling the garlic, of course. You can see his recipe at this link.

Admittedly, the list of 22 ingredients looks intimidating, but all the ingredients can be had at Your DeKalb Farmers Market, the recipe is easy to follow and will be a guaranteed success with these tips:

  • I cut the recipe in half or it won’t fit in my pan; you really do need the right pan for this: there are several traditional paella pans available at this hotpaella.com, or you can use a heavy bottom 5-quart sauteuse pan (Calphalon doesn't appear to be offering this in anodized aluminum anymore, but can hook you up with a Le Crueset 5-quart brasier or something else suitable)
  • At YDFM, you have to ask for the saffron at the pastry counter and pay cash for it there
  • The clam juice sold in the cooler next to the shellfish counter (the one with the fresh crabmeat and shucked oysters) is better than the bottled or canned clam juice; it’s more than you’ll need but you can freeze the excess
  • One day I was at YDFM and a Spanish woman told me that paella should only be made with Valencia rice; YDFM doesn’t sell this rice, but you can order it online at this link. If you use the Valencia rice (or other medium grain rice like Arborio), add a cup more liquid to a half recipe (I usually just use all the tomato sauce in the 14 oz. can and increase the chicken stock to make up the additional cup)
  • Plan for the whole operation to take one and a half to two hours, most of which is prep time—assigning one’s partner to clean the shellfish is a great timesaver
  • If you’re entertaining, get all the prep done in advance and put the cleaned clams and mussels on ice; follow the recipe up until the point where you’re supposed to add the rice, turn off the heat and put the sausage, chicken and shrimp in the refrigerator; when you are 20 minutes away from serving, turn the heat back on and when bubbling, add the rice and finish the recipe
  • If you are going all out, you can add lobster tails: cut tails in half with a cleaver, planning on one half-tail per person
  • In the finished dish, the bottom of the rice is supposed to form a crust (called socrato) and is considered the best part of the paella because of the concentrated flavor and nice crunch
  • Place one or more bowls on the table for the discarded shells

Truly impressive at the table and on the tongue, your paella will be even better if enjoyed by an appreciative crowd while listening to the Gipsy Kings and sipping Spanish red wine.

Louise June 22, 2011 at 06:08 PM
I have personally had Nonie's paella and I can confirm it's out of this world - What a dish! So many flavors:)

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