Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paella Valenciana my way....

Paella  ( Pa-eya) is named after the pan in which is it cooked. Technically, my version is anything but authentic since I haven't got a paella pan to begin with.I used the biggest pan that I have which happens to be thick and non-stick. (Boooooh!) An absolute no go for paella purist and  could lead any sensible Spanish into a cursing fit. However, perfecting a dish depend on the person who is cooking it, if one  has an undeniable affection for the dish itself,for its  tradition, for the process of making it, and for the people who will be eating it,then it is   what matters most. It also helped that I married a German. (^_^).

The paella pans are usually roundish with loop handles on the side, shallow with thin layer of conductice metal  ( plain or enameled  steel). The size of the pan varies. It could be small to feed one person or  big enough serve the  entire village on paella fiestas.

Men, their paddled paella and whirlpool sized pan.

 Most  importantly   paella pans must be wide enough which would allow rice to spread thinly at the bottom of the pan creating a socarrat. A socarrat is the crusty, caramelized rice that  stick at the base of the pan. Tutong as we Filipinos calls it. My granny's favorite snack if I may add.

Original Valencian Paella uses chicken and rabbit meat and in which different kinds of  beans were added . On the mediterranean coast however , seafood replaces the meat since these were rather a plenty ,thus creating Paella Marinara or paella de marisco. Paella Mixta on the other hand is the combination of both.  The way how a paella is cooked also differs and each claimed to yield a perfect result. Here's how I did mine.I still have a long way to go and I watched  and  yes I still am willing to learn.

Paella Valencian ala Emily

Step 1. The initial saute

Heat few tablespoon of olive oil into your pan. If you are lucky enough to have a paella pan then hurrah! Into it goes the meat. I cut 400 g of chicken breast into portions. To be honest I was quite curious how rabbit meat taste like, but the last bunny I saw was still furry ( snowy white at that), hopping and eating carrots sticks  at FF's cousin's  house so I'll  pass on rabbit protein ...for now. Brown meat then season with salt and pepper. Take out from the pan and set aside.

Step 2: Make Sofrito

In same pan, I made the sofrito. Sofrito consists of  garlic, onion and tomatoes cooked in olive oil, and is used as the base for many dishes such as paella.It could vary in each region in Spain and latin America. Additional vegetables, herbs and spices could be added into it depending on one's preferenc and dish. In my paella recipe, I sautee one  finely chopped onion until translucent. Then added 3 cloves of crushed garlic and 2 large chopped tomatoes. Set the heat to medium and let the vegetable cook until mushy. Takes about 8 minutes. I then added 2 red bell peppers,  cubed and saute it for a minute.

Step 3: Add the liquid

I poured 1.5 liter of warm chicken stock into the pan. Bring the liquid into a boil then put the chicken meat back into the pan. Simmer under medium low heat for 15 mintues, covered. Add in a pinch of saffron dissolved in water. Saffron  contributes color as well as a subtle background flavor to the rice. Annatto seeds is a widely used  substitute for saffron back in my homeland. A cheap and efficient alternative. I also added powedered paprika and chili flakes.Turmeric could be another spice you could use.Season with salt and pepper. Add 500 g of paella rice. Cook al dente without stirring. Takes about 20 minutes.

The third step may differ. Some recipes require stocks and liquid  to be added into the sofrito ensuring a rich broth before adding the rice. Others claim that sauteeing the rice in sofrito renders a more flavouful grains and naturally more delicious paella. Again, it's a  matter of choice. 

Step 4: Add the seafoods

Arrange seafood on top of the simmering rice about 5 minutes before it is fully cooked. I wish I could have more choices here like clams, crabs or any fresh crustaceans but alas, the place I live takes pride in its vast array of cheese and sausages but not fresh fruit of the sea. I was lucky to find some nice fat king prawns  and a thick slab of cod fish ( 300 g) which I seasoned with salt and pepper and cutted into cubes. I would have loved to use some mussels but I could not find any. Well one can't have everything I guess.

To give a nice contrasting color, a cup of peas was added into the pan. I totally skipped beans, I do tend to have a rather windy reaction to it. (^_^)

Serve straight from the pan and it's almost as authentic as the one made in Valencia! More paella por favor!

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