Perfect Paella

May 19, 2021

Perfect Paella

I always thought I knew how to make paella. Then, I made it with some Spanish friends over an open fire along the River Oja in Spain and I watched and learned as they prepared paella the same way that their families had for generations. I feel like I’ve won the lottery and could not wait to share their tips with you!

First, it all starts with the rice and Spanish bomba rice is a must. You also need a really flavorful broth. Skip the canned stuff and make a simple one. If you’re using chicken in your paella, bone the chicken, cut the meat into chunks and make the broth with the bones.

Next you need an authentic paella pan made of carbon steel. They aren’t expensive and The Spanish Table has a great selection that you can order online. You’ll need a really hot fire or flame. I like using a paella stand with a wood fire below but if you don’t have that, a hot oven or your outdoor grill set on high is the next best bet. Next, heat your paella pan until it’s really hot and add olive oil.

When the oil is rippling, brown the meat until golden, leaving bits of chicken sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the heat and add the soffrito, a mixture of caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes and garlic. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Add some sweet pimento (or smoked) and stir together. Add the rice and stir for a minute. Add the rice taking into account that for each 1 cup of rice you will need 5 to 6 times the amount of broth.

Now add your broth which must be boiling hot and will come up pretty high on the sides of the pan. Now increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt. The paella should be boiling hard. Dissolve a large pinch of saffron threads in water and drizzle the saffron and water over the top of the paella. Give one final stir. Reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed 6 to 8 minutes.

Using a couple tablespoons of oil, drizzle the oil in a spiral pattern over the top of the paella. Increase the heat to high for two minutes to form a small crust on the bottom of the pan. To check, use a spatula to see that it is sticking slightly and golden brown on the bottom. Be careful not to fill the paella pan to the top with rice and goodies. Chef Pau taught us that the paella, when done, should only come up half way along the sides. If you need to feed more people, use a bigger paella pan.

Finally, place a piece of parchment over the paella and let sit off the heat for 5 minutes before serving.