Wednesday, January 28, 2009


We have been watching this travel/food show on public TV for weeks now. I actually don't know what it's called, but it's Gwyneth Paltrow, Claudia Basols, Mario Batali and Mark Bittman travelling through Spain and eating food. I have had so much fun watching this show! Plus, a companion book has been published, and Andy's son got it for him for Christmas.

I was out of town last week, but I told Andy that I wanted us to try making paella when I got back. Well my excellent boyfriend stepped up to the plate in a big way. I came home to discover he had gone to the snooty kitchen store and bought a paella pan. The pan was really reasonable, but then the special fancy rice was more expensive than the pan!

The paella turned out deeeeeeee-licious and I can't wait to try it again. Of course we made a non-traditional version because I don't eat swimmy things. We made a vegetarian version, but followed the traditional method. Paella pans are very shallow and wide. This does not lend to even cooking on a stovetop. We had to straddle the pan over two burners and stand vigil and rotate the pan to ensure even cooking.

I now want to buy a charcoal grill just so I can cook paella. It's the perfect thing and they're not terribly expensive. Actually, you can buy paella burners, which hook up to a propane tank and are perched on a tripod, which costs extra. Very expensive when you add it all up, and you can only use them for cooking one thing!

But a charcoal grill would do just great.

This dish is traditionally eaten straight out of the pan. Everybody gathers around the table. You put the paella in the center, and you go to town. Doesn't that sound fun? I love the communal arrangement. No place for germophobes.

The dish is cooked to perfection when the rice has absorbed all the liquid and has formed a chewy crust on the bottom. Kind of like when you scrape that last bit of mac and cheese out of the pan. That's why you must eat it out of the pan! And, hey, not too many dishes to do. Not a damn thing wrong with that!

So here's the basic drill. This will feed 2 to 4 people.

Use a generous amount of oil! This will help facilitate the crusty bottom layer later on. I used 1/4 cup.

Let the oil heat until it smokes, then add onion and saute for about 8 minutes. Add a few cloves of minced garlic, a tablespoon of smoked spanish paprika, and any vegetables that may take a long time to cook, like carrots or green beans. Now add pureed tomato, about 3/4 cup. Add a cup of paella rice. Stir this mess around until the rice is nicely coated and incorporated with the tomato mixture (called the sofrito).

Now, you'll add 2 cups of broth. I used vegetable broth infused with 1/2 a teaspoon of saffron threads. If you don't have saffron you can sub with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric-the purpose is the lovely color it imparts. Add the broth slowly, and gently arrange the rice and veggies so they are evenly distributed across the pan. The goal is a nice thin, wide layer of rice, with the veggies attractively arranged.

Now comes the hard part. Leave it the hell alone for about 10 to 20 minutes. No stirring! Otherwise you will not get the hallowed lovely crust on the bottom. Cook it uncovered. The surface should look bubbly and it will make a crackly noise, and you want that!

As I mentioned previously, we had to straddle 2 burners and keep rotating the pan. Yes, high maintenance, but worth it. I won't have to be concerned with that when I buy that charcoal grill I am dreaming of.

When all the liquid has been absorbed, add any additional quick cooking veggies, like asparagus or artichokes or peas. Cover the pan with foil, turn down the heat and give it another 10 to 15 minutes.

What you want to end up with is rice that is cooked but has a little resistance when you bite into it. Squeeze a little lemon juice over it before you dig in. Grains should be separate, not gummy. The whole pan should have a nice crust all over the bottom. Yum--crusty bottom. What a lovely phrase.

PS! I got a great little charcoal grill at Lowe's for $28! Tried the paella again the next Sunday (today) and the grill is brilliant!

It's just the right size for the pan and it cooked evenly and was nice and crusty on the bottom!


Stella said...

straddling burners, crusty bottoms....are you high? xoxox

Janine Serresseque said...

I wish, Stella Stankowitz.

Left-handed Batter said...

Hey, how about a post about cast-iron skillet cooking? I swear by mine. Hope all is well!!



Janine Serresseque said...

I don't have a good old fashioned cast iron skillet. Can you believe it? It's on the endless list of kitchen stuff I want to acquire.

Alex said...

off topic, we got beignets from Louisiana Flair this morning(wed's only 7-10am) well worth the walk in the cccccold.

Janine Serresseque said...

Where is Louisiana Flair? Is it near our work?
I've never had a beignet, and that is a shame.

Alex said...

Grace and 4th

it is a hike from here, but I know you are up for it.

Janine Serresseque said...

Goodness, we must go next week and have a little visit. 4th and Grace? Nothin-to-it.