Friday, July 30th, 2010 | posted by wendy
To cap off a great “Grilling Month,”we thought we should share our fabulous, tried and true method for cooking a paella outside on the grill (best with a wood fire, but charcoal will do). There is nothing more gorgeous and dramatic as a paella—guests circle the grill hungrily as it cooks, helping out from time to time…lots of time to anticipate a great meal to come over a few glasses of wine. I just made a paella last night, and my friends went crazy for it. A well-made paella features an infusion of flavor and so much color and texture, it’s a feast for all the senses. The crispy layer of rice (socarrat) scraped up from the bottom of the pan is the prize everyone seems to fight over.
Here are a few essential tips I have learned after cooking dozens of paellas over the years:
• Use an authentic paella pan (a cast iron skillet will do in a pinch, but won’t provide the real deal in the end)
• Cook your shrimp, scallops and split lobster tails (or squid, or monkfish) quickly at the very beginning, then remove to a plate to add at the end
• Use high-quality, homemade stock (either fish stock from Monahan’s or homemade chicken stock infused with shrimp shells)
• Have a chicken cut into about a dozen pieces, rather than using it “Pick-o-the-chick” style
• Cured Spanish chorizo is preferable to fresh Mexican style chorizo…more depth of flavor and less greasy
• Proper rice is EVERYTHING. Bob Sparrow carries a wonderful paella rice, and Zingerman’s carries the real deal, Bomba (but it’s quite pricey).
• Don’t be afraid of using a heavier hand than usual when it comes to salt, but use course salt
• It’s a good idea to have a water bottle nearby to slow the heat of the grill from time to time
I thought it might be a good idea to share my favorite secret to a great paella party: invite several friends and have them ALL bring an ingredient. Afterall, making a beautiful Valencian-style paella can be pretty expensive if one is to add a variety of delicious shellfish, saffron, rice and of course, the accompanying wine, so here’s a fun way to put the dish together. Write the ingredients on pieces of paper (chicken, shrimp, chorizo, scallops, lobster, clams, mussels, rice), then (grab-bag style) pull the assignments out for each guest. I’ve been the guest chef at my sister and brother-in-law’s annual paella party for years, and this is how they manage to pull it off without going broke. The party seems to get bigger every year, and the new guests are always charged with bringing the lobsters. Last year we had such a bounty of contributions, we even added a lobster to the stock pot, along with the chicken, shrimp shells and saffron, and it was the richest, most wonderful paella stock yet.
Remember, Mike has several paella pans to lend out and you can get everything you need to make a wonderful paella by visiting the Kerrytown Market floor. Monahan’s has the pans, shellfish, fish stock, saffron…Bob Sparrow has the rice, chicken and chorizo…Mary at Everyday Wines can hook you up with several bottles that won’t break the bank. It sounds like a great party to me!
There are several online resources that discuss paella techniques and variations. Here’s a good one from the folks at Fine Cooking.