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What to serve with Paella?

I want to make paella for New Years and I am wondering if I need to serve any sides. Perhaps I should just do a few appetizers. Any suggestions?

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  1. Appetizers - and make them simple. Bread, green salad. That's it. Paella is a 3-ring circus all on its own. The salad is really just to provide a hit of freshness after the intensity of the paella and the bread is just a generally good idea.

    1. I enjoy paella and haven't seen it served with anything other than wine or sangria. However to make it festive some warm simple tapas served before the paella (i.e. garlicky shrimp, those potatoes with paprika and mayo, etc) would be cool.

      1. My brother invited us for his killer paella just last night. We brought pickled shrimp:
        and two small spanish tortillas. My buddy brought stuffed (anchovy, pepper, lemon) olives.
        These made for good pre-paella tapas.
        Plus wine plus port of course.

        1. Great suggestions THANK YOU!

          1. I'd serve a cheese plate to fit your theme-manchego cheese, quince, fruit crackers.

            1. At home in Valencia, paella is a one pot meal. It would, at most, be accompanied by allioli (which is neither mayonnaise nor aioli), bread, and some marinated vegetables (most commonly peppers and olives). A paelleria usually has some additional options, though all very simple dishes.
              That said, I usually cook a number of small dishes to go along with a paella. Americans have a tendency to overload paellas, leading to the rice not cooking properly, lack of a good crust, and very long cooking times or soupy rice. Instead of loading several kinds of meat, fish, and vegetables in to the paella pan (a cardinal sin in Valencia), it makes a lot more sense to do some on the side.
              Take the shrimp out and do gambas a la plancha or gambas al ajillo. Take the chorizo out (it's incredibly rare in Valencian paella anyway) and do a queso y charcuteria plate instead, with cantimpalo, jamon serrano, chorizo picante or chorizo vela, manchego, idiazabal, and mahon. Roast some peppers, leeks, and garlic bulbs. Anything simple, fresh, and using olive oil (and maybe garlic) as a flavoring goes well with paella.
              For me, allioli (again, not aioli, not mayonnaise) is an absolute must. It's pretty easy to make, ubiquitous in Valencia, and pairs well with anything that pairs with or goes in to paella.

              6 Replies
              1. re: danieljdwyer

                Would you mind posting your Paella recipe? I have made it a couple of times and did search for recipes this week. Do you have a recipe for the allioli as well? I love the idea of a cheese plate, but 2 of us can not eat dairy, so that would just be torture. I will add the olives as a side for sure and take your advice about the shrimp.

                1. re: JEN10

                  I have no standard paella recipe, but this article and the accompanying recipe offer a fairly good explanation of the Valencian philosophy on paella:
                  It's more about a technique than a recipe, and the technique can be adapted to whatever fresh ingredients are on hand. The best English language treatment of the subject I've found is "Paella! Spectacular Rice Dishes from Spain" by Penelope Casas. This contains dozens of paella recipes, some Valencian, some reflecting the dish as it has been adapted to the style of the other regions of Spain.
                  The three biggest mistakes people make with paella are forgetting that it's a rice dish, forgetting that the Spanish prefer a simple style of cuisine where you can taste the flavor of each ingredient and these flavors are not muddled, and not realizing that this is a fast cooking dish. On the third point, paella is most traditionally cooked outdoors, over an open fire. This means high heat and fast cooking. The open fire isn't a practical option for most, myself included, but it can be approximated by starting on a vary hot stove, and moving to a very hot oven.
                  As to the first two points on the balance of ingredients, you should use good rice, and the other flavors should not overpower the rice (or the olive oil). It's not a fish dish, or a rabbit dish, or an anything else dish; it's a rice dish. The recipe linked to above is about as complicated as paella should ever get. My favorite paella has only 7 ingredients: rice, olive oil, salt, paprika, fish stock / clam broth, scallions, mussels.

                2. re: danieljdwyer

                  Tell us how you make allioli and its difference from aioli. I've always made what amounts to aioli, as suggested by the recipes I've tried. But I'd love to try what you suggest.

                  Thanks for the other tips, too, as I love paella and love making it at home. I admit, I'm one of those Americans who puts a whole lot of stuff in it. The last few times I made it, I used the Gourmet recipe, w/a few tweaks. But I'd love to know what you suggest go in a paella.

                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    Allioli has only two ingredients: All (garlic) i (and) oli (olive oil). Oh, and some salt. You just crush fresh garlic cloves with a mortar and pestle, mixing in olive oil as you go. You can cheat by adding a small amount of egg yolk, which makes it easier to get everything mixed thoroughly and to keep the mixture stable. I don't use egg yolk if I'm making a small amount and serving it right away, but I use a tiny bit (maybe one yolk for every two cups of finished product) if I'm making a large amount ahead of time.
                    So, the finished product is more of a paste than an emulsion like aioli. I think that aioli was traditionally more like this as well, but in Valencia and Catalunya this is still the most common form.
                    As for what should go in a paella, anything. The important thing is that there is focus, that the flavors complement each other, and that it is cooked in such a way that the flavors are unmuddled. I can't think of any other dish where people try to combine such a variety of fish, shellfish, meat, sausage, and vegetables. It's like one of those absurdly overloaded pizzas that ends up soggy and chewy and you can't even taste most of the stuff on it. It doesn't work for any dish, paella included.

                    1. re: danieljdwyer

                      After living in Valencia for 8 months I believe that traditional Valencian Paella has Rabbit,Chicken Garrafon beans, and the flat type of green beans not sure what they are called, spices were only chopped tomato, olive oil, paprika, salt and saffron. and of course fallera rice (bomba rice) and broth or water.
                      This was the only kind of paella that I had in Valencia unless it was Seafood but that is not the traditional one. I know sometimes it did have snails in it.
                      Best when made over a fire.

                      1. re: Sattelitemckane

                        Just FYI, doesn't seem like daniel has participated since 2009...

                3. It's probably not authentic, but I always want a salad on the side and usually make one w/greens, orange segments, red onion, and some oil-cured olives.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    That's exactly what I served the last time i made paella, plus marcona almonds.

                    1. re: monavano

                      Oh, do I love marcona almonds! Did you put them in the salad or serve as a nibble?

                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                        I served with the salad. Hmm....must get back to Costco to get more!

                  2. I LOVE the salad with orange and red onion idea, I think that would be a nice touch!