Wednesday 5 March 2014

Spanish Paella: A Classic Recipe Revisited......

I love Paella, the famous Spanish dish named after the pan it is cooked in. The word paella is derived from the Latin word 'patella', a flat plate on which offerings were made to Gods. Although authentic paella is said to be from Valencia, Spain, there are quite a few variations of this dish. 
I tasted this amazing delicacy on a  trip to Spain a few years back and was totally hooked to it. An easy one pot meal , this paella has an explosion of flavors coming from the addition of a variety of chicken, sausages and prawns making it an exciting feast for a meat lover like me.
I have made an attempt to make the paella earlier too (if interested you can see the recipe here), but the only major difference is that I didn't have the traditional paella pan so I had made it in a kadhai. Imagine my surprise and delight when I spotted a paella pan on an Indian online site (it is available online on snapdeal) and placed an order for it immediately. 
The advantage of making it in a paella pan really is that as it has a flat bottom, it distributes the heat evenly cooking the rice perfectly all over. I think for me, it was more of a mental satisfaction that I got from using the proper dish required for the specific recipe. But if you don't have a paella pan, it is absolutely fine, go ahead and make it in a kadhai. If making in a paella pan, to provide even heat you might need to put your pan on the largest burner or keep rotating the pan to distribute the heat. 
This recipe has a few simple steps, all of which are important. You will need short grain rice (try to get 'Bomba", but Arborio also make a good substitute), saffron, stock, and your preferred choice of meats or vegetables. You can get as creative as you want to be in your choice of meats and vegatables.
This recipe requires a bit of prep work but believe me it is well worth the effort.
Try the paella out at home and enjoy the wonderful flavors of Spain by making your whole family sit together around the prepared paella dish and dig in straight from the pan. Nothing would be more enjoyable than that.

4 Tbsp olive oil
4 chicken drumsticks
300 gms fillet of chicken, cut into chunks
100 gms Pork/Chicken Sausages, sliced into small pieces
12-14 small prawns
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
2 large onions, finely chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 large pinches of saffron, soaked in 2 tbsp of milk
225 gms paella rice (I used Arborio)
900 ml chicken stock
1 tsp ground paprika

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or paella pan over low heat for two minutes. Add the sliced sausages and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Add the chicken drumsticks to the pan and fry over high heat until browned all over. Remove and set aside with the sausages.
Add the diced chicken and cook until it turns white. Keep aside with the sausages.
Add the prawns, turning occasionally for 2 minutes or until the prawns just change colour. Transfer to a plate.
If needed add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan and add your chopped onions and garlic. Cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes until onions start to soften.
Add in the diced tomatoes and cook stirring for a minute.
Add in the paella rice (ideally Bomba, but Arborio works too).
Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring gently, until the rice becomes translucent.
Warm the stock and add in all at once with a generous sprinkling of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add in the paprika and the saffron. 
Stir no more than once - this is where it differs from a risotto.
 Arrange the fried sausages, chicken and prawns on top of the rice. Shake the paella pan a little by taking it by the handles so that its broth flows all over.
Check for seasoning. 
Resist the temptation to stir. Let it cook for about 20 minutes. When the broth is almost absorbed, decorate the paella with the red peppers cut to ribbons. Cook for 5 minutes more or till all the liquid is absorbed.
You might have a slightly browned burnt bottom crust but don't you worry about that. That means you have nailed it perfectly. The 'slightly' browned, just short of burned crust of rice on the bottom of the paella pan is called La Soccarat and is considered to be "the most rewarding part, with nutty, toasty nuances."
Rest for 5 minutes and serve with cut lemon wedges.

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