My parents told me I can’t come home until I learn to make paella. My visa expires at the end of the year. I had to learn to make paella! After two cooking lessons, I learned one important thing: unless you burn it, paella is hard to screw up. However, that’s not to say there aren’t ways to make a better paella. Here are a few tips I picked up.
Pan: Chances are you imagine using a traditional steel pan, like in movies. This would be a great place to insert a movie reference, but I can’t think of a single paella scene right now. If you have a special burner for your paella pan, then yes, use this. When making paella on a typical stove, it’s better to use a frying pan because the frying pan more equally distributes heat from the burner.
Bomba rice: This is the best paella rice. It’s a medium grain rice that absorbs liquid without becoming soggy. In fact, after about 20 minutes of cooking and 10 minutes of sitting, it’s served al dente. It might be a bit pricier than other types of rice, but it’s easy to find in Spain and with specialty grocers in the United States.
Onions: No matter what, always start your paella with onions. After that, add whatever veggies and meats you have around. All paellas taste different, but every one starts with onions sautéed in olive oil.
Liquids: You’ll need something to cook the rice. The best is to make a wine based sauce and add tomato juice (or squid juice for arroz negro), but you can play around with this.
Saffron: Don’t forget saffron! Just a little bit carries a lot of flavor, and such a good flavor it is.
The rest is up to you. Throw in some chicken, chorizo, prawns, squid, peppers, peas, asparagus, or whatever you prefer. Buen provecho!