The name “Paella” comes from the container where it is cooked, a flat pan made of stainless iron and equipped with two handles.
Traditionally, paella should be cooked outdoors and if possible with orange wood, which in Valencia is relatively easy to find. The firing of orange wood, apart from giving some special flavour to the Paella, provides a constant fire.
♣ INGREDIENTS (for four)
• 500 gr. round rice (about 125 gr. per person).
• 800 gr. chopped chicken which usually include the breasts and liver.
• 600 gr. chopped rabbit.
• 250 gr. of flat green beans.
• 200 gr. of ‘garrofón’. A variety of white large flat beans, typical of Valencia. If garrofón is not fresh add only 100 gr. and you must leave it soak for about twelve hours before.
• 100 gr. of fresh chopped tomato, which is roughly equivalent to two medium sized tomatoes.
• 150 cc. of olive oil.
• Saffron strands or food coloring, but this last one won’t be the same, of course.
• A teaspoon of sweet paprika.
♣ HOW TO MAKE IT!
The first thing is to level the pan so that rice be evenly distributed and boil all alike. To do this, simply pour cold oil and it should be perfectly centred in the pan.
Once levelled, lit the fire and wait until the oil is hot to start frying the meat. To do this, sprinkle salt on the oil so as to avoid burning the pan and this way you have already salted the meat.
Once the oil is hot, add the chicken (and rabbit if you have chosen both of them) and turn them so that all parts are fried.
Generally, larger pieces are left inside the pan, removing the smaller ones to the outside of it to prevent burning.
It is very important to brown the meat well, on very low heat so that everything is well fried. Therein lies the secret of a good paella!
When the meat is well browned, separate the pieces of meat to the edges, where it has lower intensity fire, and fry the flat green beans. Like meat, vegetables should be well fried but not burned, turn them constantly.
When the beans are done, it’s time to add the chopped tomato proceeding in the same way: separate the vegetables to the edges and fry the tomato preventing it from burning. When the tomatoes have released all the water it is well fried.
Once all the ingredients above are well done, mix all of them and let them fry for 4-5 minutes together. The meat should be nicely browned and the vegetables and tomatoes sauteed well.
Now add the sweet paprika powder and stir quickly to avoid burning.
This is the time to add water to our paella. As reference, we use two cups of water for each cup of rice. That should cover all the container (see next photo) almost completely
As the amount of oil and rice, water measurement is indicative and experience will be your best ally.
Now add the saffron (or food coloring) and garrofón and test the broth salt, adding more salt if necessary. Importantly, the salt in the broth should be tested just before adding the rice and it must be rather salty, because the rice tends to make it bland.
When the broth starts to boil, we will leave it boil for 5 minutes over high heat. Then cook for 20 minutes with low heat. If the level of water decreases, add some more.
Then, increase the level of the fire and add the rice evenly spread across the pan.
Leave it for 5 minutes over high heat, 10 minutes on low heat. In total, the rice is cooked between 15 minutes. Never exceed this time, but leave a little bit broth aside in case you need it. The rice should be dry and whole grain.
Never add water once the rice has been thrown to the pan.
NOTE: Experts don’t measure the amount of rice but make cross-shaped mounds that protrude a finger from the paella , as shown in the photo!
When almost all the broth has been absorbed, put the sprigs of rosemary on the top of the rice, and remember to retire them before eating.
In Valencia it is customary for people to rest after lunch. Well, we do the same with paella. We leave it “rest” for a few minutes before serving. That usually suits it well, especially if rice has been left a little hard because it helps the rice finish cooking and complete absorption of broth that might still remain.
And if you want to be totally faithful to tradition, eat the paella directly from the pan and if possible with a wooden spoon.
Enjoy your meal!