No, we are not from Spain, but our family loves paella. We were introduced to the dish decades ago through my husband, who spent his career as a Spanish teacher. He hosted a paella dinner for the Spanish Club. Bob brought home the leftovers and we were hooked! Over the years, we’ve evolved the recipe to our tastes and now the paella dinner is an annual event that we all look forward to.
Living in the metropolitan Seattle area, we have access to some excellent resources for paella making. First, the Spanish Table is a store in historic Pike Place market that sells all sorts of food and implements from Spain. We have purchased several paella pans at the Spanish Table, including one that is large enough to make the dish for 30 people! We purchase saffron, piqullio peppers, bomba rice (a must for paella!) other ingredients for the paella and Spanish cheeses and accompaniments at the Spanish Table. We also have access to some of the freshest and most delicious fresh seafood available at the Pike’s Place Market. My daughter visits a particular seafood store there to purchase seafood… mussels, clams, shrimp and scallops.
Saffron is the key ingredient to paella and sells for $1,000 a pound. Of course , we only buy a quarter of an ounce. It comes from the crocus and it takes 75,000 flowers to produce one pound of stigmas which become the saffron spice. After watching a documentary on growing saffron, I decided it was not a project I wanted to take on. But after reading about Lancaster County, Penn and how it is grown easily and freely in the country for private use, I just may try it.
There are many variations. This is our family’s recipe.
There are many variations to the recipe. Our family starts with the Spanish Table recipe (available on their website) but make significant departures. We usually do this dish in the late summer and cook it on the gas grill. (One year, we made it over an open fire. It was a lot of work, but even more delicious.) First, you need a paellera. This is a large flat pan with handles. Villages in Spain have very large ones to serve everyone.
After heating up the paellera , sliced chorizo is sautéed until very browned in olive oil. We remove the chorizo, leaving the now spiced olive oil in the pan. We then brown chicken thighs (sprinkled with salt and pepper). Next comes sautéing onions and garlic until soft and golden brown. We depart a bit from traditional paella recipes at this point: Instead of simply adding the rice and liquid, we use more of a risotto approach. We add the bomba rice to the onions and garlic and sauté it until it has a nutty smell. We then add chicken broth, which has been warmed and the saffron dissolved in it, followed by the chicken, chorizo, and chopped tomatoes. We simmer the rice with the BBQ lid down, adding more chicken broth as needed. Just before the rice is done, we add the seafood along with peas, artichoke hearts and piqullo peppers. We serve the paella straight out of the pan with wedges of lemon.