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Food Sunday: Paella

Paella with seafood

Picture courtesy of*

The classic Spanish dish is not something you do with conventional instruments in a kitchen that has no extras.   The suggestions I saw involved outside cooking, a barbeque probably is the usual method.   There are any number of variations, and any variety of ingredients.

There are the usual number of stories about origins, but as far as I’ve seen, paella is not really derived from the remains of the barons’ meals, as rumored.   It is most likely something that was cooked outside during harvest.

The ingredients should be prepared before cooking starts.   This is the recipe that sounds the most right to me.   There are others.  . . .

  • 1 1/4 cup dried white beans
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 chicken drumsticks or a whole chicken
  • 1 rabbit – skinned and cleaned
  • 24 snails, cleaned
  • 2 1/4 lbs green beans
  • 2 artichokes, each cut into 4 pieces*
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4-6 cups chicken broth
  • A pinch of saffron threads
  • medium grain or “Pearl” rice

Soak the white beans overnight and drain the liquid before cooking.

Before you can start cooking, you will need to gather all equipment and start preparing the ingredients.

You’ll need one whole chicken, cut into serving-size pieces or 8 chicken drumsticks. If you use a whole chicken, use a meat cleaver to cut the chicken into pieces small enough to easily mix while sautéing. Do the same for the rabbit.

Frozen or canned snails can be purchased specialty grocery stores and they should be clean and ready to cook with.

Chop the garlic finely. Cut the tomatoes in half, then cut each half into four pieces. Rinse green beans and snap the green beans in half. Cut off blemishes.

If you are using fresh artichokes, trim tops of leaves and cut off bottom stem. Cut artichokes in quarters, length-wise. If you are using canned artichokes, open and drain the artichokes. Set all vegetables aside.

If you are preparing the ingredients ahead of time, you can do everything up until this point and refrigerate the ingredients until you are ready to start cooking.

Now that you have cleaned and chopped the ingredients, it’s time to light the BBQ. When the coals on the BBQ are covered in white ash, cooking can begin. Assemble all the ingredients on a table near the BBQ, so that you can stay in the area and monitor the cooking.

Place the pan on the grate and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom and allow the pan to heat. When hot, sauté the onion, garlic and tomatoes in the olive oil. Add olive oil as needed to prevent sticking. Once the onions are translucent, add the chicken, snails and rabbit. Cook, stirring constantly – about 15 minutes.

Add the white beans and stir.

Add the rice in the form of a cross. Stir for 2-3 minutes to thoroughly coat the rice with oil and mix.

Add saffron to the sauce pan of broth and stir. Slowly pour broth into pan until contents are covered. Add the rest of the vegetables. Spread ingredients evenly over pan. Allow to simmer, cooking rice and beans. Add more broth if necessary.

When rice is cooked, remove from heat and cover with aluminum foil, allowing paella to “rest” for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

In case you think I do this all the time since I adore paella and go abroad to get my saffron…not twice in a lifetime.

My variety of paella is – visit the nearest really great Spanish restaurant, or get myself over there to Spain.  I generally use the saffron in rice dishes with a few other things I love, like garlic and seafood, but don’t cook that much that’s elaborate for myself, alone.

Truly to treasure paella, it ought to be enjoyed in the atmosphere and ambience of its own country.  Though I have other reasons to go there, paella makes a good enough excuse to visit Spain.

[* Editor’s note: Do visit – they are a nonprofit dedicated to the enjoyment of paella!]

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.