Posted by: edibleplanet | May 27, 2010

Paella on a Sunday

paella

Generic paella shot

I have been dying to make paella for ever so long. Every cooking show you watch seems to do a paella at some point. A lot of restaurants have a seafood one on the menu.
I love the massive paella pans they use to make a whole village paella, that looks a lot of fun!
But it does seem though this dish can be at risk of being snooty. Every recipe I have come across says you must use calasparra rice. This rice has DOP status and is from Spain. This is the rice they use for paella. It is a unique rice and has very special properties. It is super absorbant so it absorbs all the liquid in your paella, it stays whole and separate so your paella doesn’t go all creamy like a risotto.
My problem is that in New Zealand calasparra rice is not cheap. Paella as I understand it was a dish created by peasants using whatever was handy and growing around them, so using a flashy, highly priced product seems to go against the very essence of the dish! I wanted to try it, so I used the Calasparra. I made my paella with very good Spanish Chorizo (though this apparently is a modern thing and wouldn’t be in an original paella) and of course saffron as well as chopped tomatoes. We had it for Sunday dinner. It was delicious and you could definitely see how the Southern US dish of jambalaya using long grain rice, evolved from a paella. But to be honest the calasparra rice didn’t knock my taste buds over.
My unanswered question was can you make a paella using a plain non DOP status short grain rice or would this end in disaster? I have bought the rice, now I just need to make the dish to test my theory. This time I will use chicken since this is more in keeping with the original paella.
It just makes me wonder what is more authentic buying all the ingredients exactly as is used (although for any dish this is usually hotly contested) or making the dish in the spirit of the original – using ingredients easily to hand.
In my various makings of risotto, it definitely benefits from good quality arborio or carnaroli rice because it just makes it so creamy and I can tell the difference, maybe I will find the same with paella.

— Fiona

Well I attempted paella with generic short grain rice. In short don’t bother – always use calasparra for paella!
The dish came out not quite as creamy as a risotto but not with clearly distinct grains like a paella.
It was edible and the flavours were nice but definitely not as tasty as the paella with calasparra rice.

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