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Valencian Paella Guide

Very kind of you to post this. Informative!

Of course, here in the USA we have a tendency to alter methods and ingredients. Authenticity is less valued. And we sometimes meld the food of two cultures together. Jambalaya is our homegrown Louisiana version of paella, for example.

Again, thank you for sharing. I hope to make one more paella dish on the grill this season before the cold weather sets in. :)
Good evening gentlemen,
I'm a not so veteran member of this forums, I just bought a month ago my first safety razor and been exploring the forums since. In my wandering I saw The Mess Hall and inside it I saw a thread started by @TheKnize that was called Paella. It was intriguing to me as a Valencian to see how people was feeling about paella. As you may know Paella is a spanish dish but it is specifically original of Valencia.

My experience with paella is wide, I've been helping around the paella ritual since I was a child and I'm making my owns since I'm 18. Couple of years ago i took a "valencian rice cuisine" with a friend just for fun but we sure learned some stuff as well.

So with this post i want to explain how we do the paella here and the different kinds of paella. There's roughly 5 types of paella. I'm only covering two here and mentioning the others that can be a part of another thread or whatever.

The Start
I wasn't sure about how to start this thread and as I saw some curious stuff at the original paella thread i searched at google "paella recipe" in english to see what happened. Here's the recipe i saw:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano *
  • salt and black pepper to taste *
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes *
  • 2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 bay leaf *
  • 1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped *
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 lemons, zested *
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped *
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed and crumbled *
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Many of you may be familiar with this recipe, i marked with an * all the ingredients we don't use when making original paella. At this point i want you to know that i'm explaining what original paella recipes are, it doesn't mean your rice is not good or doesn't taste great I just want you to know, as i thought you could be curious, how we do things here.

As I told before there are about 5 types of paella. But you can basically divide them all in 2.
1 With chicken/meat
2 With fish/seafood

In some spanish places (Madrid, Extemadura) they sometimes mix meat and fish at the paella but we don't.

I'll be explaining Valencian Paella and Paella de Marisco (seafood paella) which are basically the same procedure you just add different kinds of animals.

- Paella (which means Pan) You can actually make paella for 1 or 2 on a frying pan if you don't have one paella close or something. But never use a pot or anything else.
- If you're going by gas you will need one of these:
View attachment 916860
I mean that tripod you connect the gas to. If you dare to use woodfire, you can simply use a grill or one of these:
View attachment 916861
- Skimmer

I only use these 3 utensils. The paella, the tripod or the fire, and the skimmer. If you need anything else it sure is useful. (I'm not talking about knifes or anything else you use for the preparation of the meat because that should be prepared before starting making the paella)

Valencian Paella Ingredients (4 people)
Some of the words i had to google translate them but here it comes:

Chicken (about 8 or 10 medium pieces)
Rabbit (about 4 or 6 medium pieces)
A tablespoon (not very full) of red paprika. (I use Vera paprika, which is smoked paprika)
Saffron threads to taste or instead a teaspoon of food coloring. (But not a lot, saffron is expensive and you also don't want it yellow, just a little color)
12 tablespoons of grated natural tomato
Rotchet (80g per person). (Pics below) *
Garrofón (100 grs.) (Pics below) *
Green plain bean (100 grs.). (pic below)
Water (We don't usually put stock, if the meat and the veggies are well cooked that's enough for the flavor, but if you are not feeling lucky or confident you can add a little chicken or veggie stock) (There's a superstition about water and paella but let's skip this)
irgin olive oil
Rice (about 80g per person) We use the Sènia.
Salt and rosemary
* I don't know if these two ingredients would be available at your country. But you can put something else i'll list later as "What you can add".
View attachment 916864
This is the green plain bean i mean.
View attachment 916865
This is rochet, which is a variety of the previous bean but has a different taste and texture.
View attachment 916863
This is the garrofón. Plain wide bean that also has a different texture and taste.

I also don't know how would you feel about the whole rabbit thing, as far as i know rabbit is not very popular at some places but you can put only chicken.

What you can include on your paella:
This are not mandatory but you can put them if you want. At some valencian towns or villages is mandatory but you know. Still not the canonical.

- Artichokes (i actually love the paella with them and put them often)
- Red pepper (not green, this is how they do it in the north area)
- Snails (yes you've read it right. i sure love a good paella with snails, but is not the most typical paella setting)
- Ribs (some people put small pork ribs, yet i won't)
- Cauliflower (there's a paella recipe that's cauliflower and codfish paella, and i wont put it unless is here but you can try adding it to a regular paella and see what happens)

You can put any of these items and still call it a canonical paella (depending on how purist you are)

What you won't see on Valencia:
As i said before is not that you're making a bad dish if you put anything of the following but is just not how we do it here:

- Oregano (this is an italian herb, i never seen anyone using it on a paella)

- Bay leaf (you won't need it)
- Choriso (Choriso is great, we eat it sometimes before the paella with a little bread, but i can't imagine a paella with some choriso as an ingredient)
- Beef
- Pepper flakes or pepper
- Onion (it makes the rice too tender and you can spoil your Sènia rice with it)
- Parsley (the only herb you will need is Rosemary)
- Hard boiled egg (i've seen it once. it wasn't on valencia)
- Too much garlic or full garlic cloves.
- Tomato slices

If you like a rice with choriso, full tomato slices, pepper, onion and garlic cloves then you're looking for Arròs al Forn (oven rice) we can cover that topic other time but that's not a paella type.

The Rice
Before i go into the procedure i'm making a little comment on rice.
There are different kinds of rice, long, basmati, arboreo, short, vaporized... We only use short regular rice. There are different kinds of short rice but we can divide them in 3 for the paella's sake:

- Bomba
- Sènia
- Albufera

Albufera is a kind of Sènia rice actually, it's a really gourmet rice kind and it's too expensive and you maybe even won't be able to find it outside valencia. Anyway our whole production of rice comes from the Albufera area, but they grow these 3 varieties. The Albufera is an area of Valencia where Paella originally comes from! So if you ever come to valencia i recommend you to look for the best Albufera or Cabañal restaurants for a good tradicional not made for tourists paella!
View attachment 916881
(Some fishers' Houses at l'Albufera)

Bomba is the most popular rice among beginners and abroad because is a good quality rice that is easy to use and difficult to spoil. You can get a high quality paella when using it. Is more expensive than Sènia. Is difficult for bomba to get that puree texture.

Sènia is way more difficult rice to work with (there are some cheap tricks i can show you) is the cheapest breed of rice around here and it's what profesional restaurants and most locals use. As i told is more difficult to work with it and to get the loose texture you need. Easier to spoil but when you unlock this paella level here are the best paellas you'll make.

I only use bomba rice when i'm cooking with a new pan or if i feel unsure about any other thing.

View attachment 916870
This is a google image that looks like a paella i would eat in valencia. Instead of artichokes it has snails, and it does not has rochet but sure has everything else.

Im starting with the cooking:

1 Pour the oil in the center of the paella, level it spreading it all over the pan. Light the fire and heat the oil.

2 When the oil begins to smoke, add the chicken and rabbit, chopped and lightly salted, browning them over medium heat. If the fire is excessive, we can see a little salt on the edge of the paella, you can add more oil or lemon slices (unzested) to prevent it from burning.

3 It is very important that all the meat is very golden, the success of the paella depends a lot on this stage of the elaboration (as we are not going to use stock and we relay on this kinda stuff)

4 Add the chopped vegetables and sauté a few minutes

5 Making the sofrito:
We make a hole in the center of the paella (picture below), separating the meat and vegetables, in this hollow we add the tomato, fry it a few minutes and add the paprika. Let it sauté a minute more. It is important that the fire is soft at the time of putting the paprika, it corrects the risk of burning it and to make the paella bitter.
View attachment 916873 View attachment 916874

6 It is time to pour the water almost to the edge. Here's the cheap sènia trick: if you're using sènia and it's your first time saute the rice with the rest of the ingredients before putting the water. The heat and the oil will "close" the grain and it won't be as easy to spoil but it may not be as tasy!

7 Add some salt and leave it for about 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary.
After 20 minutes, we have reduced the broth of the paella to half the rivets of the handles, like the arrows in the photograph below. Then we try salt, the broth should be very tasty, it is important that the broth now is more salty than how we wan't the paella to be. I'm not sure about the science behind this but the broth is saltier than the final rice. Way too much salt is still a problem tho.
View attachment 916877

Trick: It is a good idea to give a taste of the broth to our guests, if finally the paella is too salty or too soft we can say it was their fault! ;)

8 This is the time to incorporate rice (if you're not using the cheap sènia trick i told you) If we have correctly taken the reference of the rivets of the handles. The broth should be sufficiently over the rice to be a good rice-broth relationship. Too much broth can make the rice too tender and too little broth can uncook it. If you're required add water and salt. Taste the broth and check what lacks of after adding the extra water. Normally adding extra water is not a good sign. But if we arrived so far we are not going to surrender.

We add the saffron or the coloring on the rice. If we are going for saffron i recommend you the spanish or the moroccan one and you should add 3 parts of the total saffron you're going to use when the broth is boiling and the rest at the end of the cooking. That way you'll get the color and the flavor (this is a master trick!)

We mix the rice uniformly and try not to leave grains of rice on the meat or the vegetable without being submerged in the broth.

9 Cook over very high heat for about 8 minutes, or until the medium cooked rice begins to appear, as shown in the photo on the right. At this time we must lower the heat to the minimum and let cook another 6 or 7 minutes. Times are not as mandatory specially if you're with the cheap sènia trick. But try to more or less follow this times to not get it too cooked.

(It is also the time to place a couple of sprigs of rosemary (fresh if possible). I actually put just a hint of rosemary because too much may cover the other flavors but up to you.)

After 6 or 7 minutes, if the paella does not have anything or almost no broth, let it cook the last 3 or 4 minutes very light fire, if the paella still had a lot of broth, these final 3 or 4 minutes would cook it with a medium fire. However, it is better to have a paella that is overcooked but rich in flavor than one very dry, hard or burnt.

It is important to know that 5 minutes of rest once removed from the fire, is something that usually sit very well to the paellas, especially if they have been a bit hard.

You can add slices of lime over the paella for decorating (or using if you fancy).

Other Paellas:
The Seafood paella is the one that has: squid or cuttlefish, clams, lobster, fish stock, shrimps, mussel and its the one where you can include the chopped onion! The order is the same as the valencian. First the cuttlefish > onion > stock > rice > rest of the seafood.

There are more kinds:

- Cauliflower codfish paella

- Arròs Negre (black rice, is black because of the cuttlefish ink and is my favorite!)
- Arròs a banda (another fish paella)
- Ribs paella

These are the official paella types.

For more valencian dishes you can try:

- Lobster soup rice
- Arròs al forn (oven rice)
- Eel stew
- Allioli (garlic and oil, is not a dish but a dip)
- Many more!

If there's something that i missed or you want to know please ask me!

Greetings from Valencia!
A very interesting post.Thank you. More please!
I seem to get the crust every time so am pretty pleased with myself. Last week I accidentally left out the onion I always normally put in. I blame the small sherry or two I had enjoyed...but yes, the texture of the rice was very different.
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