RECIPE: PAELLA IN ALL ITS GLORY
Watching Emile cook a superb paella the other night, and listening to him tell us the chemistry of why, at a certain point, you don’t stir the rice, what the original Valenciana contained (snails, lots of them because Valencia was a swamp!) brought back so many memories.
And just in case you miss that, he says the Moors brought the rice to the swamp, in Valencia.
Emile Gomez (yes, pronounced “Gometh”) is a wonderful chef, promoting great Spanish products, and was a fount of information at Truckle & Co’s tasting/rewards night for their regular customers. If you haven’t been there yet, skedaddle along and sign up. Those rewards nights are awesome, and Silvana does the hosting impeccably.
I’m sharing with you the tips he generously gave out at Truckle and Co. in Hobart the other night, and apologies for the sounds in the background – but it is of hungry and happy people learning about one of the great dishes of the world.
This recipe is just one of many in my memoir of ten restaurants over twenty years. Subscribe if you enjoy the posts and we’ll send you the first two chapters free.
Theatre of War: The Art of Running a Restaurant is coming soon as an E-Book. Watch out!
PAELLA A LA VALENCIANA
Paella is traditionally cooked on an open fire in Spain, with ingredients being whatever is in season, and to hand. The fire gives it a wonderful smoky flavor, and it varies from region to region. For me, the chorizo sausage is the base, and most important ingredient, though you will find many paellas in Spain without it, my (probably dead) taste buds are disappointed if that rich, meaty, porky flavor isn’t there. And I love the fact that this Valenciana recipe combines chicken and seafood and pork, which make it such a terrific and complex dish. It came directly from Spain.
For 6-8 people you will need:
1 large shallow paellera (pan), or shallow frying pan, with a flat bottom.
1-1.5 litres of rich chicken stock (or mix of fish and chicken stock)
1 fresh chicken, cut into 8-10 smallish pieces
2-3 chorizo sausages, cut into 3cm rounds
2 large brown onions, chopped
4 tblspns good EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 red capsicum, sliced into strips
½ – 1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
½ cup crushed peeled tomatoes or 1 heaped tblspn tomato paste
2 cups long grain rice
8-12 large green prawns in their shell
150 grms scallops and/or calamari rings
1 large fillet boneless white fish
Crabs, mussels, clams, moreton bay bugs – whatever is in season and available (Mussels always look particularly impressive in the finished dish)
2 large lemons, cut into 6, and parsley for garnish
Heat the pan with 2 tblspns of the oil and fry the chorizos, removing with a slotted spoon when browned on both sides. Add the jointed chicken and brown in the chorizo oil, turning often, in batches if necessary. Remove and set aside. Add the last of the olive oil and fry the diced onions and garlic until starting to brown, then add the rice and stir well to coat. Add the turmeric and cayenne, fry, and then add the tomato. Stir well, then add one ladle of the stock, which should be kept simmering in a saucepan on the stove, and must be added hot. Stir well, and when the rice has absorbed the stock, add another ladle of the stock, add the chicken, chorizo, diced fish, capsicum, then the prawns. Turn on to a very low heat and cover with either another pan, or lid, or double foil, to steam. Add more stock if necessary, but only enough to be absorbed by the rice. (At this point you can put it in a pre-heated oven.) After 15-20 minutes add any other cooked seafood you may wish to put in around the edge to heat through and cover again. Do not stir after this time. (And pop back in the oven if you are using it). After 10 or more minutes uncover and lift the prawns and capsicum onto the top of the rice and arrange alternately with lemon wedges standing up with parsley around the edge, facing inwards to give the dish its height and colour. Test the rice to see if fully cooked and serve straight onto the table with finger bowls and crusty bread. Make sure all guests squeeze lemon on their serves, as it magically brings the flavours together and turns the many parts into a magnificent whole.
A note here: You can buy par-cooked rice now in supermarkets, and it is wonderful – foolproof to use for this dish. We used to call it “Apprentice Rice”, being fairly disparaging of anything that might make things easier for chefs. Heaven forbid. But it is a terrific product and really takes out the main problem of waiting for the rice to soften. I also have a note for my students in my second cooking school here as an addendum to this recipe: “This dish is a never-fail crowd-pleaser, and perfect for entertaining and family meals that are informal. I can’t emphasise enough that main courses do not have to be meat and three veg., and for formal entertaining, the main course should be just that – a main course, part of an orchestrated whole, not a stomach-stretching nerve-wracking mountain of food.” I guess that still applies today.
Have you tried this marvellous dish? It’s not that hard, really, but it takes concentration. It never fails to please, and my recipe has chorizo as the smoky, porky base, which is not traditional, really, but makes it taste wonderful!
Try it and see!