My Paella is not the Bomba
So.. as I finished eating my paella last night I started to reflect on the fact that it always looks better and sounds better than it really tastes. It's a fun thing to cook.. it's a fun thing to plan and shop for.. It's a great process.. but the end result, to me, tends to suffer from the same problem that infects Mac-n-Cheese... endless forkfuls of "sameness". The flavors meld together and I find my mouth craving acidity.. or crunch..
It's not a BAD dish.. but I know it wouldn't be so globally revered if it always tasted like mine has (I've made it 3 or 4 times). I did mine on the gas grill last night but had a nice oak smoke going the whole time so I had a "campfire" taste to it that was really good. I got the soccarat (sp?) which is nice in the mouth... but other than that it's starchy and heavy.
I used chicken, sausage and shrimp.. and before you post your outrage at my yankee ingredients keep in mind that the problem I'm trying to fix would not have been improved with rabbit, squid or frog's legs.
I think my first problem is rice- I used arborio. I also probably moved it around too much so I made it overly starchy by breaking my rice down. But other than that- what creates contrast in a good paella? I used saffron, smoked paprika, good chicken stock, lots of garlic, onion..
Also- it's just a dumb thing to make for 2 people :-) I needed about 8 neighbors to stop in to help eat it!!
I'm almost reluctant to chime in on this one, as paella is one of those "traditional" dishes that people get very passionate about.
That said - it does sound like your rice was overcooked. Getting that rice to stock ratio right is a big part of the trick to good paella in my opinion.
As far as contrast and flavor - paella, like risotto, is a starchy dish so there is only so much you can do to change that since it is part of the dish (and part that I really love). But you "can" add things to help brighten up the final dish. Peas added right at the end so that they are still firm - a gremolata (parsley, garlic, lemon zest) can really brighten up a paella and help cut through the starchiness - sometimes just fresh parsley added as it goes to the table can help too.
I agree - paella is for a crowd - it is amazing how quickly a 1/4 lb of this, a 1/4 lb of that adds up. But I love it so I can eat enough to make it worth it anytime.
If you end up with a lot of rice left over (after round one we allow "picking out" what you want, so can end up with rice left over), I've taken to making arancini with the rice (I know, a little cross cultural) but it works really well.
To piggy back on the adding things: when I lived in Spain tere was a lemon tree in the back yard with huge lemons. My Spanish hosts insisted that paella's layered flavors were only really brought out with a generous squeeze of lemon in the finished product (at the table). I find it really breaks up the monotony, as well as making sure each dish has a good portion or the bottom crust.
I'm not trying to be difficult, but I find it's easy to make for 2-4 people -- though I certainly grant you, it's not a spur-of-the-moment, what-shall-we-make-for-dinner type of a meal. That said, we have five pans in various sizes and a paellera; I've made paella for my wife and I, and for parties we've had of 40+ (we had all five paella pans going!).
I don't always use Bomba -- sometimes I use Calasparra-- but *never* Arborio rice . . . and, as has already been pointed out, chorizo . . . .
I feel the same way ebone. Even having it in Barcelona...it didn't rock either my wife or me.
I will say this: arborio won't cut it. I used Bomba one time last summer and it was definitely two notches better than arborio. I went to order off of Penzey's or something, seeking Bomba but I bought a cheaper version, I think it's called calaspara. Not as good. So based on only 1 occasion, Bomba rules.
Also agree with Eric: chorizo is important as it has the potential to lead the overall flavor. I've gotten away from grocery store chorizo and seek out the most authentic I can and it helps, a lot.
Sounds like your rice is overcooked, it should be a bit chewy and (as mentioned) the Socrat (Quemada) should also lend textural contrast.
Stirring is something that you should not do after the first couple of minuets.
The Stock to Rice ratio with Arborio should be 2:1, 18min. at a quick simmer and then cover with a Tea Towel and let rest 15 min.
You don't mention the type of sausage, but for me the most indispensable ingredient for a paella is chorizo- the good, intense Spanish type like Palacios. The other indispensables are squid (which in and of itself won't add much beyond texture, so you are right on that) and bivalves- clams, mussels, or preferably both. Chicken and shrimp are the least important, to my mind. I always love the taste of my paella...but lately I've switched to ...feidoa? forget the name...but it uses pasta instead of rice...cooked in the juices just like the rice, crusty bottom and edges also.
Regardless of how you do it, try it the next time with chorizo and clams....It will taste much better.
Great point on the sausage. I used a bland Italian as I was in a pinch. Mussels were a first choice but couldn't find any that looked good. And my rice was very much past done to boot. I will try one more time and then put the pan on Craigslist!
Feijoada sounds like a must try!
Totally with you about making sure that the chorizo is the best you can get - the sausage carries so much flavor throughout the paella so it's crucial. I use a medium grain rice in mine and it turns out fine. Not stirring it much after the rice goes in will help with the crusties.
Are you using a good fish stock for the liquid part? If you can't get good fish stock (and like me too lazy to make it fresh), look for a good brand of clam juice to use in chicken stock or water.
Plenty of saffron is a plus, good pimentón is too. Any access to fresh squid for your paella? If not, my sympathies.