Grate Foods - Part 1 - Paella
08/Wed/11 - 17:09 Filed in: Best Cooks | Grilling | Paella
Please pardon the corny pun. The inspiration of this blog was a picture post I made recently to the Barbecue Bible Message board. Many folks that posted replies said they had never tried paella but wanted to try one soon. This got me thinking about what were some of the other types of food I’ve tried on the grill, that were new to me. If they were new to me, they might be new to you and you might be missing out on something good. After doing some thinking I came up with four such foods: Paellas, koftas, pinwheel roasts (matambre) and cedar planked foods. I will spit this entry into 4 parts covering one of these foods per part. I strongly encourage you to try your hand at any and all of these items you may not have eaten. Our lead off item is Paellas.
Paella: Paellas are a Spanish dish that involves rice, meat, fish and veggies cooked in a wide shallow pan. The rice is highly flavored because during the cooking process it absorbs the flavors from both a broth added midway through cooking as well as the juices given off by the other ingredients. When you are done you are left with a highly flavored rice with a wide variety of tasty ingredients mixed in. Every bite is a burst of wonderful flavors. When cooked on a gas stove or out on the grill, if you have done your work correctly you should get something called the soccorat. This is a crispy, crunch layer of rice at the bottom of the pan and is the badge of honor for a properly cooked paella. Just think of it as being similar to the smoke ring you get for smoked foods. Paellas tend to be a little prep and cooking intensive. There can sometimes be lots of ingredients that need to get chopped up before cooking. These can be meats, fish, veggies and paellas often have lots of them. Also you may have several of the ingredients cooking simultaneously in separate pans at different times and temperatures. Several paellas I’ve made have involved ingredients in 3 pans, plus the paella pan going at once. I do credit paellas with improving my prep skills, multi-tasking skills and pan cooking skills.
Speaking of paella pans, this reminds me there are a few items you will need for paellas that you won’t have on hand. I’ve already devoted a blog entry, GRILLED PAELLAS, to describing these items so I won’t go into it in great detail here.If you want more information you can refer to that blog. The first is the paella pan. A wide shallow pan with a slightly rounded bottom. Paella pans come sized for the amount of folks you plan to feed. The more people you have, the wider the pan. The idea is to keep a shallow layer of rice and use a wider or narrower pan to suit. There are often ingredients that are Spanish in origin, that may be hard to get. Jamon ham is a Spanish ham that is used in many recipes. Paellas use a special type of rice which is a medium grained rice as opposed to the more common long grained rice we use in this country. Medium grained rice is smaller than long grained rice, but it absorbs more liquid than long grained. This allows you to infuse more flavor into the paella. My GRILLED PAELLAS blog entry goes into these items in more depth and also provides the sources I used. The other item you need is a good cookbook, which is also discussed in the GRILLED PAELLAS blog entry.
The first step in cooking a paella is to brown or saute some of the ingredients (left). This is sometimes done in the paella pan or separate saute pans depending on the recipe & ingredients involved. Here additional meats & sun dried tomatoes have been added in (right).
Once the other ingredients are done browning or sauteing, the rice is added to the pan and cooked for 1-5 minutes (left). Then some sort of broth & saffron are added to the pan, together with any remaining ingredients (right).
After cooking an additional 20-30 minutes with the lid down, the liquid has been absorbed & the rice is cooked (left). When the paella is finished t goes straight from grill to table (right).
Cooking a paella often involves 3 phases. The first phase is where some of the meats, vegetables or fish get browned or sauteed. Sometimes the items are cooked simultaneously in several different pans, sometimes they are cooked in series with the items taking the longest added first and other items added along the way and sometimes the items are cooked and then pulled and added back in after some of the other items are cooked. It varies by recipe. The rice is added to the paella pan and is sauteed using olive oil for 1 to 5 minutes. Then some liquid, usually a broth of some sort is added in together with all of the ingredients. The ingredients are stirred to mix and at this point the pan is left untouched and the grill is covered while the paella cooks for 20-30 additional minutes. You are looking for the liquids to be absorbed and the rice to be cooked. When you first add the broth, it looks like it will never all be absorbed by the rice. But the medium grained Bomba rice absorbs a lot of liquid. It is important to follow the recipe and use the right amount of rice to liquid and the recommended size pan. A few paellas keep some of the ingredients out of the paella while it cooks. These items may be grilled or simmered in their own pan while the rest of the paella is cooked. Two examples of this were the Paella Primavera, which was a veggie paella where the veggies were grilled while the paella cooked and got added to the top. The second paella was the Paella Picadillo, where a simple rice paella got topped with a second dish called Picadillo which was cooked on a parallel track to the paella. But typically you are browning or sauteeing some ingredients, then sauteeing the rice, then adding in the broth and remaining ingredient and cooking 20-30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
Paellas offer a wonderful variety of flavors and taste. They have become one of my favorite foods.
The paella is served right in it’s pan when it comes off the grill. I have a companion grass mat for my paella pan which protects the table from the heat. Paellas are a truly wonderful eating experience. You will be treated to a wonderful burst of flavors when you bite in. There are often prominent and subtle flavors coexisting. Each bite is a bit different from the other. I am not always a big fan of leftover foods. They often lose something in taste and/or texture when reheated. Paellas reheat wonderfully in the microwave and are one of my favorite leftover foods. But you may not have a whole lot of leftovers either. I find folks keep going back for more paella, long after they should have stopped.
So if you haven’t tried paellas yet, don’t wait any longer. If you have a good Spanish restaurant where you live, go try a paella there. I am sure you will love it. This was a big picture type blog entry. Once again for more specifics on getting started with paellas, refer to my GRILLED PAELLAS blog entry.
SOME RELATED LINKS:Here are links for the Paella Gallery area that has Picture Entries for the paellas I’ve made on the grill. There is also a link my previous blog entry with specifics on the ingredients and gear needed to make your own paellas.
PAELLA GALLERIES Paella Picture Entries
GRILLED PAELLA 2010 Blog Entry
OTHER BLOG ENTRIES IN THIS SERIES:
GRATE FOODS - PART 2 - KOFTAS
GRATE FOODS - PART 3 - PINWHEEL ROASTS
GRATE FOODS - PART 4 - CEDAR PLANKED FOODS
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