La Paella Valenciana
The Paella is, above all, a social act in which family or friends meet, usually on Sundays, around a fire. Thus, if a suitable place is available, outdoors, with space for firewood and fireplace (paellero), this social act takes on a celebration character.
If it is cooked in “paellero”, in addition to the paella, we will need a trébede (tripod to support the paella), which we will place carefully balanced by its three legs to avoid tilting the paella to one side as pouring water would be a problem.
Any type of wood would be valid, but there is a widespread belief among Valencians that the orange tree firewood is the most suitable because it gives a slight aroma to the dish that results in a more authentic touch.
The critical moment in the preparation of the Paella is undoubtedly the end of the cooking of the broth. That is when we are going to get the hardness and texture of the rice, so fire control is crucial. Needless to say, it is much more complicated to regulate it with the wood than with a simple gas control, but basically it would be necessary to add more wood to the fire if we have leftover broth or to put aside wood if we want a slower cooking speed.
With spoon and straight out of the pan
The world of paella is surrounded, as you can see, with many topics and paradigms, although we like to call them “tradition”. Among them are the fact of eating the paella with a spoon – if you want to be very purist, made of wood, although not usually done-, and paella must be placed in the center of the table so the diners could eat straight out of the pan.
You may wonder what we manage with the meat (rabbit and chicken), or with the snails, if there were any. Very simple, with the hands, although it can be supported with an auxiliary plate.
This practice is not carried out in a generalized way, but there are always some diners who prefer it that way.
The meat: Chicken and rabbit
If we adhere to the genuinely Valencian tradition of making paella, together with the rice, the main ingredients are chicken and rabbit, usually in equal parts or, failing that, more chicken than rabbit. Both are fried – a lot – at the beginning of the paella’s elaboration being the key ingredients that add flavor to the dish. When the paella is being made, the rabbit’s liver is removed and taken as an appetizer, as an exquisite thing.
* Celiac / Gluten Free Paella
* If you want the chicken to be Halal or Koser you can expressly ask for it 48h in advance.
Recommended Paella pan size: from 42 to 46 cm in diameter INGREDIENTS FOR 4 SERVINGS
- 400g/14oz of Bomba rice (preferably, if not available use short-grain rice)
- 500g/18oz of chicken, cut into 50-60g/2-2,5oz pieces.
- 200g/7oz. of ferradura (batxoquetaor wide green/runner beans) *
- 150g/6oz of clean “garrofón” (local variety of big white lima bean)**
- 2 medium size ripe tomatoes.
- 1 teaspoonful of sweet paprika (preferably smoked paprika)
- A few saffron threads, coupé quality preferably. ***
- 250g/9oz of precooked snails (optional).
- 120ml/5fl oz of soft flavoured virgin olive oil.
- A fresh Rosemary twig
- 4 or 5 parts of water for one part of rice.
*In the case of living in Valencia, some other local vegetables could be added and found at the Central Market, like roget, tavella and artichoke (depending on the season).
**The “garrofón” could be fresh, frozen or dried. If it is fresh, it must be left to soak the day before and boiled afterwards for 1 hour (20 minutes using pressure cooker).
***We suggest using coupé quality saffron because it gives a light orange colour and exceptional aroma and taste. At the same time, using fresh saffron allow us to avoid artificial dye which provides an intense yellow colour and, among its components, it is the Tartrazine (E-102 – Yellow 5)
PREPARATION METHOD Cut the meat, without seasoning, into 50-60g/2-2,5oz pieces. Chop the batxoqueta, into bite-sized pieces, peel the “garrofón” and grate the tomatoes. Pour the oil into the pan and check that the pan is properly leveled, and then heat the oil over a low heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken first, given the density of its meat is higher than the rabbit’s. When the chicken is well browned all over move it aside to the outer part of the pan, then add the rabbit and fry it until browned too.
It is very important to brown all the meat properly, over a low heat with no hurry; it is part of the secret of a good Paella. In the middle of the pan, stir-fry the batxoqueta and, if we have it, the roget. Stir-fry carefully, avoiding it to burn, and then add the “garrofó” and the “tavella” if we have it. Move aside the vegetables to the outer part of the pan and pour the grated tomato in the middle, add salt and stir-fry.
We know that the tomato is ready when it has lost all its water. Then, add a teaspoonful of paprika and stir quickly to combine with the tomato, this way we avoid to burn it what results in a bitter flavour. Having well cooked the former ingredients, we stir all together and continue frying for a few moments. The meat must be well browned and the vegetables and tomato well stir-fried. Next pour the water into the pan until it almost reaches the top of the pan. Bring the mixture to the boil, when it starts to boil add the saffron. Then taste and salt to taste, add the fresh rosemary twig, which must be taken out in 10 minutes to avoid an excess of flavour.
Cook over a low heat for 30 to 40 minutes. In the event that before this time the water level decreases until the middle part of a soupspoon (vertically placed in the middle of the pan), or below the rivets of the handles of the pan, add water. It is not a problem to take broth out in the case of an excess or adding water, but always before adding the rice. At this point add the snails, if we have chosen to use it, and add the rice drawing a line along the pan’s diameter (“cavalló”). We do not recommend sprinkling the rice. Then spread soft and uniformly the rice with the spatula and place the meat and vegetables proportionally. Once done that, we must avoid stirring the ingredients until finishing. Return the mixture to the boil and cook the rice over a fairly high heat for 5 minutes, afterwards lower to medium heat and, for the final 4 or 5 minutes lower again to very low heat. Total boiling time of around 18-20 minutes. Never exceed this cooking time, although the both had not been totally absorbed, because the rice would be overcooked (“esclatat” as its said in Valencian language). The rice must be dry and the grain entire.
If the paella came up short of broth, lower the heat to the minimum and cover the top with aluminium foil to obtain less evaporation. If you are brave and you like the “socarrat” (the rice of the bottom is toasted and stuck to the pan), at the end of the cooking turn up the heat to the maximum for a minute or place the pan directly on the embers if you are cooking in a wood stowe.
If you want the “socarrat” to remain loose or it is too stuck to the bottom, in the moment of taking it out from the fire just place the pan on a wet teatowel. It is recommended to leave the paella stand for around 5 minutes before serving. If the rice is still hard at the end of the cooking, cover the top with newspaper or cardboard slightly sprinkled with water and let it rest for some more minutes. To be totally true to the tradition, the Paella must be eaten using a wooden spoon and directly from the pan.
The more Paella you cook, the more delicious it will be. Enjoy your meal!
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