Welcome to PaellaCook.com. If you have found this website I will assume that you already know what paella is and that you know a little about making it. I am not a professional paellero, but I love to eat and cook Spanish food especially paella. For now I offer some random thoughts about paella. If you have anything to add or any questions contact me. don Miguel.

San Diego Wine and Paella Fest. I participated with a team this year, but won no awards. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work. The competition paella was very basic. Chicken and chorizo. I was able to find some interesting beans. We were restricted to using propane as fuel. No wood. Too bad. As it was the fire department came by and required that all propane tanks be outside of the booths. By this time the paella was done, but I did make a fideua later. Each team had to have their paella ready at a set time. There were three times throughout the afternoon: 12:30, 2:00, and 4:00. People started lining up early and often people at the end of the lines missed out. I'm sure that very few people got to tase many paellas, except those who paid for VIP tickets, that allowed you to skip the line. There should be some better system considering the cost of a ticket. We served the fiduea at 3:00 between the competition paellas and it was a big hit. People were glad to have a little extra food. There was still more demand than supply. Thanks to my team Katie, who turned me on to the fest last year, Bill, our official photographer, Andrea, and Paul. It was a great team.

Since being in Valencia, I have been making my Paellas very basic. Chicken. Chorizo (although this is not included in a traditional Valenciana). Beans (even if they are not true Valencian varieties). I use onion. I continue to use onion. Rabbit is not as easily accessable as in Europe, but if I can I'll use it. Fresh snails are not avaliable here. Since I've thought about raising them I haven't seen any in my yard. They're not so stupid. I have come to love olive wood.

I've got a team for this years Paella and Wine Fest. I'll make a very simple Paella. Wood is not an option. Propane is the necessary fuel.

I made a paella a few months ago using some kind of soft wood, pine or fir. The fire was way too hot to start with. As I was browning the meat the oil caught fire. Although this didn't seriously burn any of the ingredients, it did create a slightly burnt taste. I made a paella with olive wood a couple of weeks ago. The fire was perfect. Hot at the start but not burning out to quickly. Used wood about 4 cm. I added some about half way through and then let it burn down. I achieved an almost perfect socarrat. I love olive wood.

 

31 May 2015. Yesterday was the International Paella and Wine festival in San Diego. I missed the entry deadline by a few days. It was an interesting event. I'd guess there were about 40 teams of paelleros. The event was sold out and there were lines for sampling each paella. I tasted quite a few that ranged from mediocre to very good. There was an extreme shortage of socarrat. At each stand I requested it and was met with mixed reactions that ranged from indifference to enthusiasm, with the servers waiting to see my reaction. One of my samples was just burnt rice, but the rest were good. There weren't a lot of wineries represented. Several from Baja, a couple from Napa, but supprisingly no locals. All in all it was not bad for an inaugural event.

Paella in Valencia. I've made several paellas in Valencia and sampled a few more. Our apartment had an induction cook top which I'm not at all familiar with, but I had moderate success. I was not quite comfortable with the level of heat control. It's nothing like a wood or gas fire. The first socarrat was thin and I felt in danger of burning it. The most important thing I've learned about paella in Valencia is the importance of beans. There are no fewer than 6 different kinds of fresh beans in the markets here, and a paella can and should use several. Some are edible pod beans and some must be shucked. The paella I made used 4 different kinds of beans. I plan on making a couple of more. I got better controll of the stove and was able to achieve a respectable soccarat. I made my own chicken stock using a chicken carcass I bought at the market for 57 euro cents.

I recently tasted some Paella from a food stand at the Seafood Expo in Ensenada, that was just not very good. The rice was very bright yellow but with no saffron taste. The color was obviously from "Mexican saffron" aka Safflower, or from annatto. The rice was long grain and not very absorbent; it was fluffy and dry with no flavor of the ingredients, more like pilaf than paella. No trace of sofrito in the rice. The pan was too deep and there was no trace of socarrat.

Wood: Paella is best cooked on a wood fire. As the steam rises off the pan it mixes with the wood smoke and some of it condenses back into the paella adding aromatics to the flavor. According to the Valencian writer, Josep Piera, Eucalyptus wood is best. My wife is allergic to Eucalyptus, so I never burn it. Extremely hard wood is best, as it burns hot at the beginning and cools slightly as it burns down. I tend to use woods that would be available in the Spanish countryside such as citrus, grape, pine, rosemary, and olive. Oak is fine but not so aromatic; mesquite would be interesting; I plan to try manzanita. The pieces of wood should be no more than 2" in diameter, as the fire needs to start fast and hot and burn down quickly. Charcoal will not do; you're not grilling the thing. I do allot of back country camping and make a wood fire paella every trip. It works great as a one dish meal.

Rice: Use only Spanish rice. Bomba if possible.

Land or Sea: I tend toward the purist ideal that paella should include land ingredients or sea ingredients but not both. This is because the point is really flavoring the rice with complimentary ingredients. I am not dogmatic and will occasionally make a mixed paella. When I am in Europe I will often make a traditional Valencian paella because fresh rabbit and snails are easy to come by. In the US snails are always canned, unless you raise them or purge them yourself. I don't include snails if my guests are put off by them. Snails for a land paella should be land snails, for a sea paella they should be sea snails, whelks or winkles.

Liquid: There are lots of good commercial chicken broths and stocks available, some even organic. Whenever I cut up a whole chicken for anything, I save the giblets and back for homemade stock. If you are cutting up whole chicken(s) for a paella, the back(s) and wings are fine for enough stock for the paella. Vegetable stock is easy to buy or make. Commercial fish stock is rare but clam juice is fine. I buy it in big cans at Smart and Final, rather than small bottles at a supermarket. If you can get fish heads and bones or shrimp peels, make your own.

Socarrat: If a paella tastes burned, that's because it is. Socarrat is not burned rice it is caramelized rice. If the rice on the bottom burns, it will smoke and taint the whole paella. If you get a burned paella in a restaurant send it back. If you are making a paella err on the side of caution; no socarrat is better than burned paella.