When one thinks of Spain, images of Flamenco dancers, castanets, toreadors and running bulls may come to mind. For foodies however, the images are probably far more geared toward rich and full-bodied wines, a cornucopia of tapas and of course, Spain’s most renowned dish, Paella.
Paella is a rice and seafood dish from Spain’s Valencia province on the Mediterranean coast. It’s considered by food historians to be a perfect example of the union of Roman culture that brought with it the tools needed to make Paella and the North-African culture that for centuries has been considered to be the most influential contributor to Spain’s early food supply.
Outside of Spain, it is thought to be the national Spanish dish however, because Spain is made up of so many different and distinct cultures that settled in various regions, inside Spanish borders it is considered to actually be the regional dish of Valencia.
There is the traditional Paella Valenciana which consists of rice, white meat like rabbit or chicken, snails (escargots), beans, and at times artichoke hearts and chicken livers.
Saffron is the trademark spice that’s used in all Paellas and it’s from the saffron that Paella takes on its vibrant yellow colour.
Paella de Marisco (Seafood Paella) is prepared in exactly the same manner as the Paella Valenciana but replaces all meat with crustaceans and other seafood and is most often prepared without the addition of vegetables.
These are two types of Paella that follow a more rigid preparation leaving little room for creative licence. My personal favourite, Paella Mixta (Mixed Paella) leaves lots of room for creativity and you can virtually add anything you like to it.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to prepare a Paella Mixta starting off in the traditional manner which is on a stovetop, outdoor burner, fire or grill and then finishing up non-traditionally in the Fornetto. I’ll also show you a “meat-lovers” type of Paella prepared in a one-step cooking style and done entirely in the Fornetto.
As I mention in almost all of our posts and without wanting to sound repetitious, use the freshest ingredients you can buy you can buy! When making a Paella with seafood, try to buy fresh but if you need to, you can always use frozen. Be sure to defrost anything properly in the refrigerator. Never leave anything sitting out on the countertop to defrost.
If making a meat-based Mixed Paella, try using typically Spanish ingredients such as Chorizo, and a dry-cured Spanish ham such as Jamón (ham) Ibérico.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve prepared two Paellas for this post using a two-step method for cooking one and a completely non-traditional method for the other. Now to explain why. In the above image, I used a stainless steel Paella (in Valencian) or Paellera in most other Spanish speaking regions and countries. It’s the traditional dish used for making Paella and is wide and relatively shallow. Normally, Paella is completely cooked over an open flame, either indoors or out. In the above Paella Mixta de Marisco (Mixed Seafood Paella) I began on the stove and finished it off in the Fornetto.
In the above, our Meat-Lovers’ Paella, everything is prepared in the ceramic Fornetto roasting dish though there’s a method that I will show you in the following video and in the recipes in order for your rice to cook properly so that you end up with a Paella that is dry enough for the grains of rice to separate yet that’s still juicy and flavourful. The trick with Paella is to get your measurements right or you can end up with under-done rice or a mushy and cluggy mess. (It’s very important to note that ceramic dishes such as Fornetto’s line of ceramics should never de used over an open flame or in contact with any direct heat sources such as those from a gas range or electric, induction or halogen stovetop). Watch the video below to see how I’ve put both Paellas together.
For the Seafood Paella, all you need is a bit of freshly chopped parsley and a generous sprinkling of fresh lemon and dinner is served! Seafood Paella is always served with the seafood still in their shells which makes eating it a bit messy.
Follow my seafood prepping demonstration in the video to make Paella easier to eat for both you and your guests. Click here to get the recipe!
Juicy and bursting with flavour, the Meat-Lovers’ Paella delivers what a traditional Paella offers in terms of a delicious single dish meal and is a great alternative for guests that prefer meat over seafood or that may be allergic to shellfish. For a vegetarian alternative, try loading up on vegetables and replace the chicken or fish stock with vegetable broth! Click here to get the recipe!