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Paella Question

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I have a question that those of you with experience in cooking paella may be able to answer:

I know how to make paella, because my mother is from Spain and she taught me years ago. However I've only ever made paella for up to 8 people. In a few weeks I am having a tapas party for about 15 people, and among the things I am making I would like to serve Mom's paella to my guests.

The problem is that I don't have a paella pan big enough to serve 15 people, and I also don't have any outdoor space in my current flat (and paella is always better when made in a paella pan over a flame.) I've found a couple of recipes for making paella using a Dutch oven when you don't have a paella pan. However I don't have a Dutch oven big enough to serve 15 servings!

One thought I had was that I could prepare two portions of paella in two skillets simultaneously on top of the stove, including browning the meat/seafood and making the sofrito. Then before I add the liquid to cook the rice, I could transfer the mixture of rice, seafood, veggies, etc. into a disposable aluminum lasagna pan, spread it all out along the bottom of the lasagna pan, and then pour in the stock to cover. Then I could just let it bubble away in the oven at 375 until the rice is finished. But I'm not sure if this would work.

If anyone has any suggestions I'd be really grateful. Thanks!

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  1. I do lots of paella for small, medium and large crowds. Your method will work, you just won't have that great crunchy stuff on the bottle of the pan.

    1 Reply
    1. re: duck833

      That crunchy stuff is the soccarat and it's hard if not impossible to have a great authentic Paella with out it. Paella is all about the rice. It should never be overly moist or creamy which can be a side affect of holding the dish too long after it's finished cooking.

    2. If you're serving paella as only one of several dishes at the party, then "paella for 8" may actually be enough for 15 people. But yes, you can do it is small skillet batches and then just use the oven to keep it warm.

      1. I use my large al-clad skillet for paella. I put it on the FLOOR of the oven, this gives me some of the nice crunchy rice on the bottom.

        1. Thanks for the hints all. I hadn't thought of completely cooking the rice all the way to the end and then just keeping it warm in the covered lasagna pan. My thought was to cook it in the lasagna pan. I realize I won't get the crust, but by that point we'lll be halfway through a case of cava so I don't think anyone will notice. ;-)

          1. I have used a pella pan and a pizza pan to prepare paella for a group. It worked out nicely, because I had a afew guests that did not eat pork, so their pan did not have it.

            4 Replies
            1. re: normalheightsfoodie

              Normal Heights as in San Diego? What a wonderful neighborhood. I lived in Kensington in the late 70's.

              It brought a smile to my face when I visited a couple of years ago and the Normal Heights sign was still there. In fact, much of the North Park area hasn't changed much at all.

              I certainly miss those days.....

              1. re: bkhuna

                I am sure that your Ken home is still the same, the area has gone through a gentrification and both ken and NH are great places to live with small resteraunts and bars.

                1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                  Far from the days of attending midnight movies at the Ken. Just how many years did Rocky Horror play there?

                  1. re: bkhuna

                    I don;t know, but I took my daughter to midnight movies their on Sat.

            2. I've found that for really large groups (20+), I can get away by using a large roasting pan that I put on top of two burners. The pan conducts heat well so I get a decent soccarat in the sides of the pan. Alternatively you could use this technique on an outdoor grill to get even heat across the pan.

              3 Replies
              1. re: JungMann

                JungMann - that is an interesting idea I had not considered. When you say roasting pan are you talking about the steel kind, like a broiler pan or a turkey roaster?

                1. re: benmcd

                  I'm talking about a large anodized aluminum roasting pan, a little bigger than the turkey roaster. It heats more evenly, but the turkey roaster should work if you mind the flame.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    Ah, gotcha. That's not a bad idea, if I can borrow one. I will ask around. Thanks!

              2. I also used a large roasting pan and although not the best. it worked. I have two. One is coated the other isn't. A very large roasting pan. Both work great for large parties. I do this with my stews, roasts, paella type dishes or my jambalaya and gumbos when making large quantities for our beach parties. I have a jambalaya for 40 in a few weeks and this will definitely be used.

                2 Replies
                1. re: kchurchill5

                  Wow, for 40! What are the dimensions of the pan you use, if you don't mind my asking?

                  1. re: benmcd

                    Big. I very large turkey roaster my grandma gave me. About 28 long by almost 18 wide and 6" deep. Before I used that pan I did a big party with paella and made the base in one pan and then split into two pans which is when I added the seafood towards the end. That also worked. Considering the alternatives it worked very well.

                2. Have you thought about procuring a proper paella pan? Last summer, I hosted a paella party and bought one of the three foot paella pans. Used a modified charcoal grill to cook the paella. Worked like a charm. Places like mypaellapans.com sell various sizes for reasonable prices.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: onocoffee

                    I'll second that suggestion. The problem with a lot of the alternatives is that a Paella pan should be thin so you can achieve the soccarat with out burning the rice. A Paella pan is thin so it heats fast and cools fast.
                    A large Paella pan is not overly expensive especially compared to a lot of other cookware.

                    http://www.paellapans.com/

                    http://www.tienda.com/

                    1. re: Fritter

                      I have a paella pan that I purchased at Corte Ingles in Valencia, but when preparing for a larger group, I also use my caphalon pizza pan.

                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                        Both of these pans fit in my oven. I have also seen a stove top version using a large pan, and then covering, I had to use tin foil to cover it to steam the seafood.

                        1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                          I haven't seen a Calphalon Pizza pan that that does seem like a solid idea. I do have a Calphalon Commercial Paella pan (with a lid!) that is is at least 15 years old.

                          1. re: Fritter

                            the pizza pan is good in a pinch. It is very shallow, but it can take the heat of the oven.

                      2. re: Fritter

                        Thanks for the suggestions. As I mentioned in the original post, he problem is I have no outdoor space and therefore no grill. I'm stuck with your standard apartment-sized oven.

                        I'm wondering whether I should just make a sort of improvised arroz a la marinera in a big stockpot, instead of paella, and then finish it in the oven, since there would be no question of trying to achieve a soccorat in that case.

                        1. re: benmcd

                          If you can cook in a stock pot you are going to be a lot further ahead than trying to cook in a disposable aluminum pan or doing batches. My biggest concern irrespective of weather it's Paella or arroz a la marinera is what seafood you intend to use and will you be able to party, talk to your guests and tend to the dish with out over cooking the seafood.
                          Which ever you chose I hope it works out well.

                          1. re: Fritter

                            I plan on doing butifarra (a kind of Catalan sausage), peeled and deveined shrimp, squid rings, and bay scallops. Obviously the sausage has to be cooked in advance so it can brown. What do you suggest given the remaining ingredients?

                            1. re: benmcd

                              I would buy shell on shrimp and make some stock with the shrimp shells. This way you can use the shrimp stock when you make your rice. You can lightly poach your seafood in the stock in advance. This will allow you to add your seafood at the last minute so it is just re-heated while still incorporating the flavor of those items into the rice. At a party timing can be far different than you envision as guests mingle. This will allow you plenty of flexibility to hold the rice with out over cooking the seafood and should simplify things for you.
                              I hope you will check back and let us know how it goes!

                              1. re: Fritter

                                SPOT ON ADVICE!!!!!

                    2. Try your biggest pan and make in two batches and transfer to aluminum pans. I have done this as well when younger and had little room. I have little room now and deal with it all the time. I think you can still make an awesome paella with what you have. Call or email. Email on my profile. phone is 941-487-7233. Glad to help but I think you can do a real descent good paella with what you have. Do a couple of short cuts and sacrifice a little, but I'm sure it would be just as good trust me.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: kchurchill5

                        Er...you REALLY ought to think twice about posting your phone number in a public forum. It is NOT a good idea, believe me.

                        My initial idea, which you basically reiterated, was to do what you're saying, i.e. make two paellas on the stovetop and then combine them together into a big aluminum disposable pan and let them finish cooking the last 10 minutes in the oven. They won't technically be paellas because they aren't cooked in a paellera, and they won't have a crust, but I'm going to try it anyway and see how it goes. If it's a disaster there will be still be plenty of other things to eat. Thanks again!

                        1. re: benmcd

                          benmcd - I'm curious to know how your paella experiment in the oven turned out. Did you cook it for 10 minutes only, or kept it warm longer? Was the texture of the rice good - other than the lack of crunchiness? And the seafood didn't overcook?

                          I will be making a luncheon for 100 people in May, and would love to make paella. I know it wouldn't be authentic, but the only way I could do it is like you described. I'm planning on making 4 of those disposable aluminum pans to accommodate everyone's dietary restrictions: one vegetarian, one mixed, one with only seafood and one only meats. I plan to make the broths, brown the meats and prepare the seafood ahead of time, then assemble the different pans with the rice, vegetables and meats and cook them in the oven. Let me know how your paella turned out!

                      2. This is the recipe that I use.

                        6 tablespoons olive oil
                        1 cup minced onions
                        1 each small-sized sweet red and green bell peppers, seeded, and cut into strips
                        1 cup drained, chopped canned tomatoes
                        1 tablespoon minced garlic
                        1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
                        1 (2 1/2 pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces, patted dry
                        Salt and freshly ground black pepper
                        3 chorizos, sliced into 1/4-inch thick half circles
                        1/2 cup dry white wine
                        3 cups long-grain rice
                        1/4 teaspoon ground saffron or saffron threads
                        5 to 6 cups simmering chicken stock
                        12 extra-large shrimps in their shells, shelled and deveined, leaving tails intact
                        12 hard-shelled clams, such as littlenecks, scrubbed
                        12 mussels, scrubbed
                        1 cup peas
                        Lemon wedges, for garnish
                        Minced fresh parsley
                        Make the sofrito: In a heavy 12-inch skillet heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until hot, add the onions, and pepper strips and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
                        Add tomatoes, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring for 5 minutes more, until most of the liquid in the pan evaporates and the mixture is thick.
                        Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In the skillet heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderately high heat until hot. Add the chicken
                        and cook it, turning. Add sausages and cook until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and deglaze pan with 1/2 cup dry white wine.
                        About a 30 minutes before you plan to serve the paella, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a 14-inch paella pan or shallow casserole at least
                        14-inches in diameter, combine the sofrito, rice, and the saffron. Pour in 5 cups simmering stock and, stirring constantly, bring to a boil over high heat.
                        Remove the pan from the heat immediately and season with salt. Arrange the chicken, sausage, shrimp, clams, and mussels on top of the rice.
                        Set the pan on the floor of the oven or the lowest shelf and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Scatter the peas at random over the whole and bake for
                        5 to 10 minutes more or until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and the grains are tender but not too soft. If necessary, add the remaining cup
                        stock, if the rice needs to be more soft. Do not stir the paella once it goes in oven. Let paella stand at room temperature covered with a cloth for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with the lemons and parsley.