The famed Spanish rice dish, Paella, is famous around the world. Legend has it that the servants of Moorish kings created rice dishes from the mixtures of leftover items from the royal banquets. They’d take large pots of these foods home and mix them with rice, and thus, Paella was born.
But this ancient Paella is not the same as the Paella known today. Today’s Paella can be traced back to around the mid-nineteenth century near Valencia in an area around a fresh water lagoon. Field workers would head to the lagoon around lunch to make rice in a flat pan over an open fire. They’d mix in anything they could find from snails to vegetables. From this tradition grew modern-day Paella.
Today’s Paella is made in a stunning array of ways. No two cooks will make it the same, but each way anyone prepares this dish is assuredly a masterpiece of epic deliciousness. Paella can be filled with a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables. The traditional version has some variation with rabbit, chicken, snails, artichokes and beans. There’s also a seafood version which is intensely popular and perhaps the most commonly known. Seafood Paella is bursting with the sea’s bounty of fresh fish, clams, mussels, and shrimp. You can also find completely vegetarian versions that contain items such as artichokes, eggplant, white beans, and peppers. Key seasonings in all varieties are saffron and paprika.
Regardless of what is chosen to go in Paella, it’s the method of making it that truly counts. Most Spaniards will agree it is not authentic Paella if you don’t cook it over an open fire. It can be over charcoal or with a specially-designed gas Paella burner, but the true authenticity is in the open flame.
A Paella pan is a necessity in order to make true Paella. It is the exact thickness desired to create this masterful dish. It’s a large, flat and open steel-made pan that’s round in shape and has handles on the sides for easy lifting. Plus a layer of rice winds up at the bottom of this pan and gets perfectly cooked to a thin crispiness which is prized among true Paella fans. And speaking of rice, using bomba rice is the most authentic way to achieve perfect Paella. Try it for yourself!
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Diced Spanish onion
14 oz. San Marzano Tomatoes
4 Cups Spanish Rice
5 Cups Warm water (add more or less for your desired consistency)
1 Tablespoon Paella Seasoning
1. Heat oil in a Paella pan over medium-high heat. Sautee the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add tomatoes and Paella seasoning; continue to cook for several minutes until the flavors combine.
2. Add rice and stir until coated. Add water and simmer for 10 minutes, continue to stir gently so that the rice absorbs all of the liquid. If using chicken or seafood, add now. Continue to cook and gently stir for another 20 minutes.
3. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, turn the heat up for 30 seconds so you can smell the rest start to get toasty. Serve with fresh herbs and lemon, if desired.