what is it? suddenly, like, daily, there are reports of paella coming out of the wood-works. the times even has a paella project and on the web you need days researching the notion. turns out folk are k-razy about paella this, sofrito that, socarrat the other, bomba rice or die, valencia or marisco, you need a pan, you don’t, every possible venue seems to turn into paella.
since i seem to have an opinion on just about everything this side of the stove, i’ll weigh in with what i do when my love wants a paella.
lets get the pan out of the way right of the bat. i use a large steel, well seasoned frying pan (oh horror) and cook separately whatever i bring to the rice in this vessel (that would be wessl) once the mussels, the shrimp , the chorizzzzzzo, the what-ever is cooked i set all aside and begin the sofrito in the very same pan. sofrito goes like this: onion, garlic, rosemary, tomato, paprika and i like beans, so, canned cannellini. i use good olive oil (not my best) to stew this stuff down till its pulpy. in fact i like it to be caramelized so the flavours really come together. then for the rice: bomba if you have it, if not any short grain, about half an inch deep. i do a stir-fry for a while to get the rice nicely glossed and proceed to cook the grains in a broth made of water and a good amount of saffron. if you like saffron you can’t use too much of the stuff. so, when the rice has absorbed most of the broth, i stir in the set-aside meats and let it all simmer till the rice is al dente. this is when i blaze up the heat under my pan, toasting the rice till its darkly fragrant, which gets me around to the infamous socarrat, a seductive caramelized crust from the bottom of the pan, without which a paella is just plain paella and really nothing to write home about.
so, now that the thang got done, the dish a wrap, we ate, straight from the pan, ecstasy rendered, yes, it was fabulous, unbelievably so, the rice individual kernels still, the mussels, shrimp and chorizzo tender and whole, yet their flavours transmogrified to the whole. we ate all. the entire thing. all of it. we, two luscious people, alas now stuffed, yes, we ate one pound of shrimp, one pound mussels, one pound chorizzo, never mind the sofrito, rice, onion, garlic, rosemary, tomato, and beans. and scraping the bottom, socarrat ravished, belly sated, we thought of the alka selzer ad, and yes, we ate the whole thing.