We’re all familiar with Paella, that beautiful specialty from Valencia, Spain. Just the word conjures images of a large pan simmering over an open flame, wafting aromas, and brimming with perfectly seasoned rice, vegetables, fresh seafood, tender poultry and gorgeous seafood. March 27th is National Paella Day, so we wanted to ‘expand the pan’ and bring you some traditional recipes and some…not-so-traditional recipes. Each celebrates this iconic dish while showcasing Paella’s versatility.
All about the Rice
Before we talk about paella, we must address the reason that paella is paella. This ingredient is the master of ceremonies, the reason this dish is so special…the rice. Matiz traditional paella rice is a unique regional varietal, a short grain strain that originated in Asia but made its way to Iberia so many years ago. These short chunky grains are responsible for both the creamy mouthfeel as well as the consistent flavor throughout each bite. They’re little powerhouse sponges! Each absorbs double the liquid capacity of other rice varietals, and locks in flavors from the broth, sofrito and saffron. It is also the big reason why (and this is our favorite part) the socarrat, the crispy browned rice at the bottom, remains crispy but somehow not dried out. Marvelous!
Even when we speak of the traditional, we’ll get mixed opinions. The argument is not about the rice nor the seasonings…that’s standard operating procedure. The fuss is mostly about what goes on top. Paella was developed much in the same vein as Southern New Brunswick stew – whatever was available went in the pan. You’ll see recipes for solo seafood, game meats, vegetables and any number of variations and combinations. A few of our personal favorites from the recipe archives that highlight the traditional, yet variant, are Seafood Paella de Tiet Joan, Chicken and Chorizo Paella, and Arroz Negro or Squid Ink Paella made with Aneto Squid Ink Paella Base.
Our Catalonian Uncle John (Tiet Joan) gifted us this family recipe and it is a treasure, treat it well for us.
Our good friends at Hipcooks developed this seafood-free Paella version, rich in Spanish flavor and heaping with tender chicken thighs and savory chorizo.
Squid Ink Paella (arroz negro)
This recipe is all about the rich squid ink flavor and the stunning black color. If you’re an adventurous food lover with a penchant for great seafood this will be right up your alley.
Outside the Pan
Let’s get creative, shall we? The flavors and fun of Paella don’t need to be limited to just the traditional applications…Why not paella for breakfast? As you’ll see in this eggy version below. Or my new personal favorite, Paella Latkes where it’s socarrat for days with these crispy cakes.
The eggs are added about half way through the cooking process and add a richness, a silky texture to the finished product.
Definitely outside the box, but definitely a good idea. These Rice and Saffron Latkes with Manchego latkes are like getting the soccorat all to yourself. The rice almost mimics the creaminess you get from traditional potato latkes, with the addition of unique saffron and savory Manchego cheese. They also make a stunning vessel for a myriad of toppings – all i oli, sofrito, and diced red onion.