Although the paella is one of the most laborious (and expensive) dishes I cook, it is also my favorite meal to create. A one-stop meal, it includes savory rice, seafood, vegetables and sometimes, meat. The socarrat or tutuong (burnt rice) at the bottom is something too almost everybody looks forward to in any paella.
Unfortunately, my paellera rusted, and thus, I haven’t been able to make paella recently. I don’t know why it rusted despite following the instructions in maintaining it. Hmmm calling Terry’s.
Anyway, here’s a basic rundown of how you create paella.
First, AND FOREMOST, create a broth. Mix in fish bones, prawn heads, ham/beef/chicken bones, onions, leeks, garlic, salt and pepper into a pot of water. Add in wine too. Let this boil for a good hour or so on low fire, and let all the flavors surface. This broth is critical as it truly fuses with the rice once it is added into the paellera.
Next, make your sofrito, which is equally important in paella. The sofrito is the base of your paella. It is the purrrfect combination of caramelized onions, garlic and wilted tomatoes. Let this Trinity of Mediterranean cuisine slowly cook. Do not rush it. Let it cook until it’s almost as diluted as liquid. Be careful too not to burn it.
Then one-by-one, add in the other ingredients into this mixture. I always start with the prawns since prawns give off a very heavenly taste whenever it’s mixed in butter or olive oil. Once these are half-cooked, remove these. Do the same too for the fish (must be white meat), squid, and clams.
When I add in sausages or bacon, I add these to the sofrito and let them sweat their fat into the base. Once cooked, I also remove these. Whenever I use chicken, I boil the chicken first in the broth so that I don’t run the risk of cooking the chicken so lightly on the paellera (which is not a frying pan). Once these are boiled, I also add them into the sofrito so that the oil browns the chicken parts.
Add olive oil liberally.
As the base nears completion (by this time your kitchen would be smelling like the heavenly courts of the New Jerusalem! haha), add in the rice and stir. Coat the grains of rice with the sofrito. Eventually, you may now add the broth.
Let it sit on medium heat until it boils. Once it boils, lower the heat and cover.
Let it cook for a good 40 minutes. Right before it cooks, add in all your ingredients and decorate it if you want/can.
Paella is one of those dishes that aren’t only laborious to prepare but also one that is full of love, hard-work and soul. Maybe that’s what gives this meal a hearty one, one that just speaks of the beauties of the human experience. In one dish, you have the fruits of the earth and the sea combined as well as the flavor of fire made incarnate in the socarrat.
If prepared correctly, paella is one one of those dishes you will never forget.
Truly a dish hecho ayer.