Making the perfect paella
I’ve recently become obsessed with the idea of making and perfecting paella. I blame it on my mainly Spanish ancestry. This is a wonderful dish, one which I vaguely remember really enjoying when I lived briefly in Spain, but I can’t claim to have any authoritative sense of what paella should be like, and I certainly am as clueless as the next person as to how to make it. So I thought I would start a thread to share my newfound passion, tips and questions on ingredients, and so on.
The other day I made my first paella after carefully comparing about 20 online recipes. The result was a very wet, mushy rice (total failure), but an absolutely heavenly flavor (really, better even than anything I remember having in Spain). I’m going to make it again, adjusting things, before being so bold as to post the recipe, but the keys which made it taste so good, I think, were:
(for 5-6 portions) a full tsp of finely powdered high-quality saffron (probably 2+ tbsp of threads, tossed in a spice grinder) – I bought my saffron here: http://www.saffron.com/ Note that that’s a lot more saffron than most recipes call for. But the flavor was exquisite, really remarkable.
not skipping the chorizo (I only had Costco’s Andouille, which is as close as I could get, so I added paprika and chile powder to compensate). I’ll probably use the chorizo from the Wurst Sausage guys in Hualien next time, but I’ll still add a bit of spices. I’m not interested in arguments from purists who say paella Valenciana has or doesn’t have this or that ingredient, dammit!
a variety of only the very freshest seafood (bought live or freshly iced at the wet market) – squid, prawns, very live clams… the only exception was a can of crab meat, which I think really helped the flavor.
boiling the prawn heads, legs and shells in chicken broth with the saffron added, and smashing the heads to release the ‘flavor’, then using this as the liquid for the rice (i.e., no water; all broth). The liquid from the crab meat should be used, too.
Now, as to my mushy rice failure – I used an inexpensive long-grained rice just as an experiment, to see what the result would be, and because it’s easy to buy. I used exactly the amount of liquid called for in an online recipe. At first I thought my proportions of liquid to rice were off, but now I really believe I do need a harder rice that doesn’t go mushy. The question of where to get a good rice for paella or risotto has come up on ‘mosa before, but no one has mentioned a source for the best Spanish rice (Bomba):
[quote=“joesax”]There’s a decent page on paella here;
Thanks for that, Joesax. Good page, from which:
From a couple websites:[quote]Valencia produces virtually all of the rice in Spain… Certain strains of short-grained rice grown in Spain have a unique capacity to absorb large amounts of broth while remaining firm. Each year a precious amount of the very best rice in Spain is cultivated in the village of Calasparra in the neighboring region of Murcia. The producers grow two historic varieties – Sollana (called Calasparra rice), and the coveted Bomba, which was nearly extinct until gourmet chefs recently recognized its superior qualities for producing the perfect paella. [/quote]
[quote=“http://www.eatpaella.co.uk/Tips.asp”]Paella Rice Tips
The best rice to use to make the paella is Valencian rice (a happy coincidence). The most famous are SOS rice and La Fallera. This rice is fatter and shorter than Indian, long grain rice, so it absorbs more liquid and therefore the rice soaks up more flavour. If you are desperado you can always use pudding rice, but the quality is not quite the same.[/quote]
From http://www.hotpaella.com/detail.aspx?ID=20, which sells Bomba rice online: [quote]Bomba rice is the best, and arguably, the only rice to use for paella. Certified origin from the L’Albufera nature preserve. Why is Bomba worth the extra cost? …Bomba rice cooks differently than other types of rice in that the grains widen significantly instead of only becoming longer. The key feature of what makes Bomba the best is that the grain is much harder than any other variety in the world, thus allowing it to absorb more liquid (and thus flavor!) This rice maintains it’s consistency even under extended cooking; it never becomes sticky, fluffy, or mushy. Even though it absorbs more liquid than ordinary rice varieties, the grains remain separate and individually loose from one another; a desired feature for paella cooking.[/quote]
[color=green](I’ve asked this last site for a shipping quote on 5 kg of Bomba; I’ll edit the reply into this shortly.)[/color]
[color=blue]Next step: actually finding Bomba[/color] (aka SOS or La Fallera – I’m not sure whether these are brands or sub-varieties; aka Arroz de Valencia), [color=blue]or Sollana[/color] (aka Calasparra), or even Arborio. One website said Kokuho pearl rice was an ok substitute. Another more reliable one said Goya medium-grain rice would work.
Does anyone know if Mitsukoshi still has Arborio? And which Mitsukoshi is that? (street x street?) [quote=“llary”]OK, so I picked up 1.5kg of the Australian Arborio from Mitsukoshi for NT$240. … I’ve tried loads of different risotto rice varieties and I really don’t think there’s any difference in quality - just a slightly different texture if cooked properly. Personally I prefer Italian Carnaroli because it has a firmer bite…[/quote]
[color=red]How about Bomba? Anyone have any good sources for Bomba rice here?[/color]
Here are some more tips from various websites:
[quote]When making paella or any other Spanish rice dish, don’t wash the rice, for it needs its outer coating of starch.
Cook paella and other rice dishes uncovered.[/quote]