My very first Paella experience was over 20 years ago, and it was “love at first bite”. It was my first experience with something very unique and exotic. I instantly responded to the depth of flavors this one dish had….and I truly admired its irresistible presentation. The Paella came to our table oozing with all kinds of meats and seafood on a bed of very flavorful and fragrant rice. Mmmmm….
That day, I think I sub-consciously put Paella on a pedestal in my mind. And ever since, if I find myself at a Spanish restaurant, I just HAD to order Paella. Note: It is usually the most expensive dish on the menu and you have to be sure that you are really hungry to do it justice.
I have had some amazing Paella and for me couple of the most outstanding ones are: Barcelona restaurant’s version and this Cuban Paella version that an ex-colleague’s wife made for me eons ago. The Cuban Paella version was quite spicy and that really struck a cord with me.
BTW: I have heard some great things about Chef Rui’s Paella (Duoro restaurant in Greenwich) but have not had a chance to get up there and try it yet. Very soon, Chef Rui, very soon!
Over the years, I have considered making Paella at home…but always changed my mind at the last minute. I have never admitted it until now, but I was secretly afraid that my version might cheapen the glory of something so great. And I did not want to be the one to bring it down from the pedestal I had placed it on.
In the last few months I have really worked hard on strengthening my resolve to give it a try. I bought special Paella rice and smoked spanish paprika 5-6 months ago….still could not get myself to do it. Alas! How much longer will I be afraid?
And then, BINGO! Last night was finally the night! My very first attempt at making Paella! As a starting point I used the recipe in the Barcelona cookbook. It helped that I had attended a class with Chef Adam Halberg of Barcelona restaurants a couple of years ago. All of my eager note-taking came in very handy at the crucial moments last night.
The result? WAS PHENOMINAL!!! I was so very happy with it. It looked awesome and tasted even better. Chef Adam Halberg’s tips to create a great depth of flavor in the Sofrito before it goes in the Paella really made the Paella shine. And the smoked spanish paprika really adds that extra oomph! I am also proud to announce that in my cast iron pan, I was successfully able to create soccarat (crispy, slightly burnt rice – “the secret ingredient”) at the bottom of the pan. Chef Adam halberg would be so proud.
Now….I am in heaven … and right next to me is this pedestal. Don’t look now, but it might have MY Paella on it.
-Fairfield County Foodie