It’s no secret that I love rice. Whether it’s a cheesy risotto, kimchi fried rice, omurice or topped with a saucy loco moco, I am a fan. No matter the application, there is something that is so comforting about rice. And paella valenciana is no exception.
Growing up, my dad made used to make a paella. It was very simple – rice tinged yellow with annatto seed, diced red pepper and some seafood. All I remember was that was bland and peppery. I’m not even sure if this was a Filipino adaptation of it but it wasn’t my favourite of his dishes growing up. Because this is what I knew growing up, I had no idea what really paella tasted like.
I had finally tried paella at Espana many, many moons ago on a date. I loved the tender morsels of rice, bits of seafood and meat and delicate flavours of saffron, tomato and paprika. It was so good. I have, since then, exhausted all of the Spanish eateries in Vancouver offering paella, my favourite the one at Bodega on Main. Mm…
And just when I thought that was good, I had finally visited Spain last year. And my mind was completely blown away.
To my surprise, I had only tried paella once and that was during my first night in Spain in Barcelona. We headed down by La Barceloneta which is the beach area. After a little bit of a wait, we were seated inside at 7 Portes, a bustling restaurant specializing in Catalonian cuisine. Apparently it was one of the best places for paella – and it did not disappoint! Fresh shellfish, perfectly cooked and infused rice, wine… it was perfection. I had to somehow recreate this at home.
Paella, as you may know, originated in Valencia, Spain. Traditionally, the rice is cooked with both chicken and rabbit, delicate saffron threads, lima and green beans. I had topped my paella with smoked mussels, chopped parsley and marinated artichoke hearts as one of my girlfriends is vegetarian.
Although it did not come out completely as I had wanted it, it was still especially delicious! I admit I did stir it a little bit which is going against the cardinal rule of paella making but oh well! I should’ve done a little more research before I had made this. For example, I will peel and grate the tomatoes next time as I wasn’t a fan of seeing all of the tomato skins peeping out inbetween the grains of rice. Still turned out amazing.
PAELLA VALENCIANA – makes 4 – 6 servings
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, diced
2 cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
4 small roma tomatoes, diced
1 pinch saffron threads
1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
1L vegetable stock
salt + pepper
Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 (7oz) can of smoked mussels in olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges
In a 10” paella pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add in the rice and toast until the grains turn opaque and sticks to the pan. De-glaze with white wine.
Next, add in the tomatoes, stock, saffron threads, smoked paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook for about 20 – 25 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked.
Layer the remaining ingredients atop the rice and serve immediately with lemon wedges.