Paella Valenciana is one of the world’s most popular and well-known dishes, although defining exactly what it comprises is nearly impossible. There are as many different paella recipes as there are cooks, with each claiming to be the greatest tasting or authentic. The dish’s beginnings, on the other hand, are quite low. Understanding its history will help explain why there are so many variations.
History of Paella
Paella’s first documented recipe appears in an eighteenth-century manuscript entitled ‘Avisos, I instruccions per lo principiant cuyner‘ written by Josep Orri. Due to its beginnings in the Marjal de La Albufera, Valencia, this recipe was originally known as Arroz a La Valenciana. As a fact, we may say that Valencia, in Eastern Spain, is the uncontested home of Paella Valenciana. It is one of the greatest natural ports in the Mediterranean, and since the Moors introduced rice to Spain over 1200 years ago, it has been one of the most important rice-producing locations in the country. In fact, unlike most Castilian Spanish, the term for rice is ‘arroz,’ which is derived from Arabic rather than Latin.
Paella, which comes from the Latin word patella, is the name of the pan in which this meal is made in Valencian. The dish has the same name, which makes sense given that it is traditionally eaten straight from the pan. There’s also a hypothesis that paella means ‘leftovers,’ which is derived from the Arabic word baqiyah.
Paella was originally a midday dish for farmers and farm laborers in Valencia. Workers would gather whatever they could find in the rice fields. Tomatoes, onions, and snails were frequently incorporated. Rabbit or duck was frequently used, with chicken being used less frequently.
The main difference between the authentic Paella Valenciana and other varieties of paella is the use of rabbit meat and snails.
The Ingredients of Authentic Paella Valenciana
- Garrofón (a type of large white bean)
- Ferradura or Judía Verde Plana (similar to green bean)
- Olive Oil
- Rice (currently, bomba rice)
How to prepare the Authentic Paella Valenciana
Step 1 El Sofrito of Paella Valencia – The stir-fried
Place the rabbit and chicken meat in the pan with plenty of olive oil and a pinch of salt while it’s extremely hot, so it gets a golden color and crispy texture. When the meat is cooked to your liking, add the Ferradura or Juda Verde (green beans) and stir fry for a few minutes more.
Place the grated tomatoes in the center of the pan, wait a few minutes, and then add the paprika, mixing carefully to avoid burning it.
Step 2 El Caldo of Paella Valenciana – The Broth
When the water in the tomatoes evaporates, the stir-frying process is complete, and it’s time to make the broth. Meanwhile, Saffron, garrofón, and snails are added to the water. Place a sprig of rosemary in the center of the pan at this point and remove it after a while (before adding the rice). If necessary, adjust the salt.
Allow the broth to simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Step 3 El Arroz of Paella Valenciana – The Rice
Rice is poured in a variety of ways, each with its own set of rules. The renowned cross form, a mountain range across the paella, or simply scattering the rice in a circular shape from the sides to the center are all examples.
The crucial thing is to distribute the rice uniformly in the paella, regardless of how you put it in. This ensures that the rice cooks evenly.
Step 4 El ‘Socarrat’ of Paella Valenciana – The rice that sticks to the bottom of the pan
The Socarrat is without a doubt one of the most contentious portions among Valencian spoons.
As the broth is absorbed, the rice at the bottom of the pan toasts, producing a caramelized texture and excellent flavor. Be aware that socarrat is not the same as burnt rice, and there are ways to avoid it.
The sound of the rice is one method to tell if the socarrat is ready. When the broth evaporates, rice begins to fry at the bottom of the pan, making a peculiar crackling sound. It’s the formation of the socarrat.
The friction of the rice at the bottom of the pan is another way to assess socarrat. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon to see if the rice is already sticking.
There is a distinction to be made between socarrat friction and burnt friction. And only practice will tell you when it is time to put out the fire.
Step 5 El Reposado of Paella Valenciana – The Rest
After you’ve finished cooking the Paella, it’s vital to let it rest for a while. A cloth or other types of material, such as baking paper or aluminum foil, is commonly used to cover the Paella.
It’s time to put your hands to work! Grab a spoon and eat the paella right from the paella, everyone together, if you want to preserve the tradition alive.
Different variations of Paella
There are as many versions of paella as there are cooks in Spain. And depending on where you are in Spain, many restaurants have their own recipes and modifications. Red and green peppers, tomatoes, and, of course, saffron are common ingredients in paellas. We can simply divide the various types of paella into five major types according to the key ingredients used. They are as below.
It is the oldest paella. Valencia was the birthplace of paella. This comprises chicken and pork in addition to rice. Although many indigenous eat rabbits, many restaurants do not because they know that many tourists are unfamiliar with the animal.
This is a seafood paella with no meat. It is also popularly called Paella de Marisco. Prawns, mussels, calamari, clams, and other shellfish are common ingredients in the recipe. This form of paella is sometimes soupier, and is known in restaurants as ‘Arroz Caldoso,’ which translates as soupy rice.’ The seafood juices provide liquid to the Paella. This is a personal favorite of many because it adds additional intensity and taste.
This paella is a combination of Valencian paella and paella de marisco. It has meat, chicken, and seafood in it. This paella is also known as Paella Andaluz, and it is the most popular paella, especially among visitors.
This paella is prepared using artichokes, lima beans, red and green peppers, and rice as the main ingredients. It contains no meat or fish. It’s a vegetarian paella, as the name implies.
This dish, Paella Negra basically has rice, squid, and lots of squid or cuttlefish ink. You can use other ingredients like bell pepper and meats as per taste. This paella is black in color because of the use of squid ink to prepare it. It has a unique flavor that locals adore, so if you’re feeling brave and in the mood for adventure, try it!
How to make the most popular Paella- Paella Mixta
- 8 Chicken drumsticks
- 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 White onion, diced
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 Cups short-grain ‘Calasparra’ rice
- Two Pinches of saffron (‘azafrán’ in Spanish)
- 2 1/2 cups clam juice
- 2 1/3 cups chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup green peas
- 1 Tablespoon of ground cumin
- One Tablespoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 Diced red tomato
- 1/2 Diced cucumber
- 8 Clams
- Eight Black mussels
- 8 large shrimp, peeled
- 12 Small scallops
- 1 Slices chorizo
Preparation and Recipe
1) To cook the traditional Spanish paella, you need a large skillet or paella pan without a lid. Firstly, cook the chicken in 1/4 cup of olive oil until it fully cooks. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
2) Saute 1/2 onion in the same pan with the chicken fat and 1/4 cup olive oil until tender. Add 1 tablespoon of garlic after that. Then add the rice. And toss until you cover it all with oil. After that add in some saffron after a good stir.
3) Thirdly, In a separate container, combine the clam juice and chicken stock to form the crucial paella cooking liquid. Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of the cooking liquid to a simmer with the rice. Cook for approximately 5–7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper before adding the bell pepper and peas. After that, Stir thoroughly.
4) Finally Serve.
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