International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Paella Valenciana

Paella over an open flame

(Spanish meat, vegetable and rice dish)

Image Creative Commons by alcebal2002

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At once both rustic and elegant, this exquisite rice dish originated in the Valencia region of Spain and is typically made outdoors in a large, shallow pan called a paella, or paellera. Making paella is a man's activity in Spain. He builds a fire of orange and pine wood, and the paella is cooked over the fragrant flames.

Paella valenciana is the most famous version. Optional additions to paella Valenciana are rabbit and snails. Other versions include paella de mariscos (seafood) and paella mixta (mixed).

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Hot stock or water -- 6 cups
  • Saffron (optional) -- big pinch
  • Olive oil -- 1/4 cup
  • Chicken, cut into serving portions -- 3 pounds
  • Salt and pepper -- to season
  • Garlic, roughly chopped -- 3 to 4 cloves
  • Paprika -- 2 teaspoons
  • Rosemary, chopped (optional) -- 1 teaspoon
  • Tomatoes, crushed or chopped -- 1 cup
  • Short- or medium-grain rice -- 3 cups
  • Green beans -- 1 cup
  • Peas or lima beans -- 1 cup
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste

Method

  1. Heat the stock or water and saffron in a saucepan and hold at a simmer.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a paellera or large, wide skillet over medium-high flame. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them on all sides in the hot oil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and push the chicken pieces to the sides of the pan. Add the garlic, paprika and rosemary to the middle of the pan and saute until the garlic just begins to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes. Finally stir in the rice.
  4. Add the hot stock or water, green beans, and peas or lima beans to the pan and bring to a boil. Season well with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, uncovered and without stirring, until the rice is cooked through and tender.
  5. Remove from heat and let the rice rest for about 5 minutes. Serve accompanied with lemon wedges to squeeze over the top if you like. Diners traditionally eat directly out of the pan.

Paella Variations

  • Rice: Short-grained rice is the type typically used for paella. It is starchier and provides a creamier dish. The traditional Spanish rice varieties for paella are calasparra or bomba. Arborio or carnaroli, Italian rice varieties used for risotto, also work well. In a pinch, regular long-grain rice will do.
  • Paella de Mariscos (Seafood paella): Use a combination of seafood — mussels, shrimp, lobster, squid, clams, cuttlefish. Skip Step One. Go directly to sauteing the garlic and paprika in the oil. (You can omit the rosemary). After adding the rice and other ingredients, let it cook for about 10 minutes, then push the seafood down into the rice and liquid and continue to simmer until the rice is cooked through. Use a seafood or fish broth for maximum flavor of the sea.
  • Paella Mixta (Mixed paella): Use any combination of a variety of ingredients to suit your taste. Many versions have a meat ingredient and a seafood ingredient. For meats, options include chicken, pork, rabbit, chorizo sausage, snails and duck. For vegetables try adding chopped bell peppers, onions, capers or pimentos. Olives are never added to paella in Spain, but they are a very popular addition in Latin America.
  • The Socarrat: A bottom layer of crusty rice, called the socarrat often forms on the bottom of paella and is considered desireable. Increase the heat below the paella toward the end of cooking to toast the rice on the bottom. Then set aside to rest as directed before serving. The socarrat is called the pegado in Latin America.
  • Replace 1 cup of the stock or broth with 1 cup of a nice Spanish white wine for an added layer of flavor.

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