Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Paella Combines Flavors of Spain

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Paella Combines Flavors of Spain

Article excerpt

YEARS AGO, on a short visit to Spain, I was hoping to eat paella - but never did.

Each time I ordered it, the waiter would explain apologetically that the chef made paella only on certain nights. I was always dining on the wrong night.

I returned home without having experienced Spain's national dish: the flavors and colors of chicken, seafood and spicy chorizo nestled in a bed of golden yellow rice.

A friend had better luck.

On his first trip to Spain, he accomplished three goals: to see the sights, to buy a classical guitar and to eat paella nonstop.

He managed to go to restaurants on their paella night or to find restaurants that would make paella any night - as long as he was willing to wait while the chef made it to order.

Eating this rich rice dish for 10 consecutive days wasn't enough for my friend.

When he came back to the United States, he set about on a trial-and-error experiment in his kitchen until he came up with a re-creation of the dish that suited his taste memory. The recipe below is the result of his experimentation.

Although paella qualifies as a one-pot meal, its preparation is time-consuming.

The whole process takes about two hours from start to finish. It's not the actual cooking that takes so long. It's the dicing, slicing, chopping and browning.

Believe me, there is a sense of relief once the top goes on the skillet for the final simmering. While the rice absorbs the saffron-infused chicken stock, you'll have just enough time to clean up the kitchen.

The work will go faster if someone else shares the chores.

One person can chop the onion, parsley, tomato and garlic, while the other washes the clams and deveins the shrimp.

To save on pots and pans, first fry the chorizo - a spicy Spanish sausage - then wipe out the pan and use it to cook the shrimp and brown the chicken.

Meanwhile, your partner can be measuring out the remaining ingredients.

In Spain, this dish is made in a paellera, a two-handled, round metal pan with gently sloping sides and a flat cover. These pans come in various sizes, depending on the number of people the paella will feed.

But don't deny yourself the treat of a paella simply because you don't have a paellera. A large skillet with a tight-fitting lid will stand in quite nicely.

Two ingredients are essential to the outcome of the dish: short grain rice and saffron. Use any kind of Latin short grain rice or arborio rice (used for risotto). These types can be found in ethnic grocery stores or in larger grocery stores.

Long grain rice can be substituted in a pinch, but don't use quick-cooking or converted rice. The flavor and texture will be different.

Saffron, the dark orange stigmas from a flower that resembles a crocus, is a costly spice. Its flavor can't be duplicated by less expensive spices such as turmeric.

If real chorizo, a spicy Spanish sausage, is difficult to find, then look for Portuguese chourico or linguica, a milder sausage. …

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