From the Kitchen – Made for Sharing

by Joan Saunders | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography – 

Paella is a marvellous shareable summertime dinner, as it’s not only easy to make but also very adaptable. Pronounced pai-ay-uh, encourage guests to eat this Spanish staple directly from the pan, the traditional way of enjoying it. Doing this only increases this dish’s appeal and flavour, as a terrific paella loses its impact if scooped out onto a platter. Accompanied by a simple salad, a wonderful wine and perhaps some crusty bread, you don’t need to serve much at your paella party, as you don’t want to draw attention away from the gorgeous main event.

While you can use a paella pan if you have one, any large, round, shallow pan for the cooktop will work. Other specifics include bomba, a rice with a nice texture that absorbs flavour; as an alternative, use medium grain rice. If you don’t want to include meat in the paella, by all means add more seafood. Not a fan of mussels? Toss in clams or more vegetables. The winning combination is up to you.

The best, and most authentic, paellas have a shallow layer of rice and aren’t piled high in the pan. What I love about this dish is that you want to have a bit of rice sticking to the pan as this creates socarrat, the caramelized bottom layer that sometimes forms; it’s considered a prized part of a great paella. Be sure to monitor the rice carefully, as you don’t want it to burn. A little bit of socarrat goes a long way, even if it’s rumored to be an aphrodisiac that fuels Spanish lovers. So, enjoy a long, lazy summer evening and try out this classic dish; you’ll definitely savour all the tasty layers of paella, right on down to the socarrat.

Paella (serves 6)

I used a 16-inch/40 cm paella pan

¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 roma tomatoes, finely diced
bay leaf
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp saffron threads
salt, pepper
¼ cup wine (your choice)
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 fresh chorizo sausages, cut into ½-inch thick rounds
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups Spanish rice (bomba)
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup frozen peas
½ pound jumbo shrimp/prawns (12, peeled, tail on)
½ pound mussels (10-12)
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Add olive oil to pan over medium heat. Add chorizo and chicken, cook, stirring occasionally, until meat starts to brown. Remove meat to bowl; set aside. Add onion, pepper, garlic; cook until onion is translucent. Add chopped tomato, bay leaf, paprika, saffron, salt, pepper. Stir, cook for 5 minutes. Add wine; cook 10 minutes.

Add cooked meat, 2 tbsp chopped parsley, rice to pan. Cook 1 minute.

Pour broth slowly all around pan; jiggle pan to get rice into even layer. Do not stir the mixture going forward.

Bring mix to boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Give pan gentle shake back and forth once or twice during cooking. Don’t stir, so socarrat forms.

Cook, uncovered, about 12-14 minutes; then nestle shrimp, mussels (hinge side down) into mix, sprinkle peas on top.

Continue to cook, without stirring, for about 10-12 more minutes, or until mussels have opened, shrimp just cooked through. Watch for most of the liquid to be absorbed and rice at the top nearly tender. If rice is still uncooked, add ¼ cup more water or broth; continue cooking.

Remove pan from heat; cover with lid or tinfoil. Place kitchen towel over lid; rest 5 minutes.

Garnish with parsley, lemon wedges.

Adapted/combined from:

Off the Vine Pairing with Paella
by Tania Tomaszewska –

Aside from Pairing Rule No 1 (“Just drink what you like!”), think about whether the food and wine will dance together in a balanced, elegant or fun way. Ideally, one partner will not outshine, overpower nor completely clash with the other’s expression, flavours or tones. Whether they’re two peas in a pod or opposites attracting, the match can work! Also consider the “regionality” of the ingredients and the place from which the dish is derived to invoke the “What grows together, goes together” principle.

Joan’s recipe is a “paella mixta” (a twist on meat-based Valencian style paella). So I’m going with Spanish wine styles (or grapes) to complement and enhance the complex flavours, textures and spices going on here. Here are some ideas to take to your local bottle shop. But selections from around the world can work, so feel free to grab one of your favourites which suits the profile. Salud!

Vino tinto
Red wine lovers: Think fresh or crunchy medium-bodied styles with bright red fruit and soft tannins, like garnacha (grenache), mencia, tempranillo, Rioja Crianza or older Rioja Reserva. Into pinot noir? Go for a rich fruity red cherry profile here (as opposed to a lighter expression with tart cranberry, mushroom or fennel tones).

Ideas: CVNE Viña Real Rioja Crianza, Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva, Anciano Gran Reserva Tempranillo (all Spain), Tempranillo from Moon Curser Vineyards or Stag’s Hollow Winery (B.C.)

Vino blanco
Try a rich weighty white such as a chardonnay, roussanne, verdejo or Rioja Blanco. If your paella is all seafood or veggie, you can slide into an albariño or textured pinot gris.

Ideas: Rioja Blanco from Bodegas Muga or Hacienda López de Haro (both Spain), Terravista Vineyards Figaro or Fandango (B.C.), Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay (France), Cedar Creek Estate Chardonnay (B.C.)

Rosé all Day
With the freshness of a white and structure of a red, a dry crisp rosé goes with pretty much anything. Embrace one made from Rhône varieties (syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, cinsault) or try a Spanish Rosado (typically a tempranillo/garnacha/viura blend). Into bubbles? Bring on some dry Rosé Cava.

Ideas: Segura Viudas Brut Rosé Cava (Spain), Domaine Houchart Provence Rosé (France), Imbzzl Ruse Rosé (B.C.)

For sherry aficionados and more adventurous tasters, bring a bit of Jerez to the party with an oloroso. With its rich complexity and darker aromatic tones, this sherry style could be the perfect slow dance.

Ideas: Gonzalez Byass Nutty Solera, Lustau Don Nuno (both Spain).

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