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Ole', Espana: How to make a quick and easy paella
Paella - the national dish of Spain
Having lived, studied and spent many vacations in Spain, I have brought back several recipes of the national dish of Spain, paella. It is my favorite food and receipe from Spain, and I have have spent many an evening lingering over a dish of paella and a glass of red Riojas wine with family and friends. This dish is not difficult to make, despite what you have heard, read, or seen on the food channel. I have an easy recipe for paella that takes no more than approximately 30-45 minutes to make, tops. But first, a little history of the dish, paella.
Paella originated in Valencia, Spain, which is on the east coast of Spain along the Mediterranean Sea. It is in the Catalan region of Spain of which Barcelona is the capital city, and it came into its modern form in the mid-19th century. The word paella comes from Catalan, one of the dialects of Spain, and comes from the Old French word paelle for pan. Therefore, paella is named for this dish because of the pan in which it is cooked. Also, passed down verbally from Spanish generation to generation is the linguistic definition that it is made "pa ella" - for her, as originally paella was cooked by men for women.
Yes, in the macho driven world of Spain, men cooked paella for women. It was and still is the romantic thing to do. So all you men out there, pay attention, so you can learn to cook a romantic meal for your woman.
Paella was originally an outdoor meal, cooked in a gigantic paella pan, over a wood fire. The ingredients would cook and simmer for several hours to get just the right flavors and taste of the rice. When cooking was finished the large paella pan was put on the table and everyone ate directly from the pan. That is rarely done today in Spain as it is individually served whether eating inside our outside. The dish became so popular in Valencia, that when the Spanish from other towns, villages and regions visited, they brought the dish back home and added or subtracted ingredients according to their regional tastes. Paella Valenciana is cooked with seafood because it is on the Mediterraean Sea, but it does not have to have seafood in it. For those who are not seafood eaters or those allergic to seafood, paella can be made with just meat in it.
La Paella or paellera is the cooking utensil for paella and traditionally was made of iron, but today is made of stainless steel. The base of the pan is flat and the pan is circular and shallow and has two round handles on opposite sides. They start at 10-15" wide and this cooks enough for about four to six people. They continue to rise in size according to how many for which you want to cook. These, also, can be quite expensive, but I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma for about $24 and this is an extremely moderate price. They also sell at Sur la Table but are much more expensive. Follow the written directions for seasoning the pan, as this adds to the flavor of the dish when cooked in it. If you don't have a paella pan, or cannot find one locally, just use a large stainless steel skillet and it will work for you.
Paella Valenciana consists of the following ingredients: white rice, green vegetables, chicken or rabbit, chorizo (Spanish sausage), seafood, saffron (this spice makes the rice yellow) and olive oil. Saffron is terribly expensive here in the U.S. because we don't grow it and have to import it from Spain. So the least expensive and easist thing to do is to buy bagged rice with the saffron already in it. The brands I use are Vigo or Goya, and these are easily purchased in your local grocery store in the international food section. They usually cost between $2-4 for eight to sixteen ounces.
Here is my recipe for one-dish Speedy Paella:
1 package (3 1/2 ounces) chorizo (Spanish style sausage) or pepperoni cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 pound chicken tenders each cut crosswise into thirds. I also use 4-6 whole chicken thighs as an alternative.
1 medium red pepper chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed with garlic press. You can also substitute garlic powder here.
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 package (8 ounces) Spanish-style yellow rice mix (Brands: Goya or Vigo)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
1. In a stainless steel or non-stick 12 inch skillet, cook chorizo over medium-high heat 2-3 minutes or until fat is released, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer chorizo to plate.
2. In same skillet, add chicken and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until cooked through; transfer chicken to plate. Add pepper, garlic, and thyme to skillet and cook 1 minute stirring. Add rice mix, 2 cups water. Add chorizo; heat mixture to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, 10 minutes.
3. Stir frozen peas into rice mixture and cook 5 minutes, covered. Stir in chicken and heat through. Transfer to warm serving bowl if you like or just put the pan on the table. (If you are using seafood, after stiring chicken into rice mixture, add clams, mussels, prawns, and/or langostas and heat through)
Ole' - Serve with French bread (yes, the Spanish eat French bread; they do not have a bread of their own), a mixed tossed salad with oil and vinegar for dressing and Spanish Riojas red wine or red Sangria. Can be eaten inside our outside. Enjoy! Feeds 4-6 people.
This is so easy, even the most inadept men in the kitchen can cook this!