BasqueStage Candidate Post
I’ve chosen to demonstrate the very dish that inspired me in the culinary world. Unique to Valencia, a region on the east coast of Spain, Paella is a dish that is often identified as Spain’s national dish. When I studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain five years ago, my Senora taught me her “mixed paella,” recipe. In every city I visited, I experienced a range of ingredients included in the paella; the ingredients diversified regionally. Seeing the Spaniards take great pride in their recipes and come together around such immaculate creations, empowered me to take a culinary quest.
One of the reasons that I enjoy this dish so much, is the mere fact that there can be many versions. I have never been one to stick to classics or stick to the norm. I understand and completely agree with the need to know the basics, gain a foundation and learn the classics before you go on and alter a recipe, but after that, I thrive on change and the ability to be spontaneous and creative.
Luckily, before I left Spain, I had asked my Senora to teach me how to make her recipe of Spanish Paella. I want to share it with you, one of the best basic and classic recipes I know and enjoy.
- 1-2 lbs. Chicken cut into 1/4″ pieces
- Olive Oil (as needed)
- Additional proteins if desired: squid, pork, chorizo sausages
- 1 Green pepper, diced
- 1 Yellow pepper, diced
- 4 c. Water, boiled
- 2 t. Saffron
- 8 oz. Onion, diced
- 6 Garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 lb. Tomatoes, chopped
- 1 lb. Arborio rice (or short-grain)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 6 oz. Green peas, cooked
- 8 lemon wedges
- Cooked shrimp,lobster tails and orange bell pepper for garnish
Photo 1: One of the first things that I learned in the kitchen, was how to “mise-en-place.” This first photo is all of the ingredients that I will need for the Paella recipe; everything has been measured out and prepared as they should be to complete the recipe accordingly. This is so important, as a chef, so that you have everything you need and you aren’t running around trying to find it, but can focus on the process.
Photo 2: To begin the Paella, it is best to prepare the protein first since it takes the longest to cook. Here you can see a saute pan with chicken browning in olive oil. After you’ve removed the chicken, you can use the saute pan to briefly saute any other proteins you may have chosen to use. It is best to do them separately because, for example, chicken takes a lot longer to cook than seafood.
The garlic cloves and the onions are then added to the saute pan and browned a bit before adding the diced tomatoes.
Photo 5: It’s getting exciting! After you have the ingredients in the pan, add the water to the mixture and stir. Bring it to a simmer and cover until the rice has soaked up the liquid and is moist but not soupy. This step is when you realize if you have a big enough pan- make sure you do, or the liquid will seep over the edges. The deeper the skillet, the better!
Photo 6: Now the really fun part! After being patient, and allowing the rice to get to the proper moisture level, sprinkle the cooked peas in and garnish. I used the extra shrimp, lobster tails, lemon wedges and a bell pepper flower.
Wow! And it is still delicious! Is your mouth watering just by the looks of it?
I strive to emulate what I learned from my Senora. I can only imagine what a true chef and his kitchen crew could teach me.:) Oh BasqueStage, I’m so ready.