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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . . .