Paella, paella. The word rolls off the tongue with a resounding smoothness that suggests something wonderful. But what is paella? You should know first that it's a cuisine which lives up to its illustrious name. Paella is a Spanish dish mixing seafood with a delicate saffron rice.
The recipe originated in Spain, possibly as a collision between Moorish and Valencian tastes. Today, paella has become a hit across the world, from elegant restaurants to home kitchens, and has seen many variations spring up from its original design. Basic paella is still very much a seafood dish. Traditional paella is defined by its generous portions of shrimp, clams, scallops, and often crab or lobster. To help control costs with excess seafood and mix in other flavors, it's become increasingly common to throw in chicken broth or sausage too. The best old style paella has its meats cooked into Spanish or bomba rice prepared separately with saffron.
Saffron, however, isn't the only spice in this flavor packed concoction. Spanish paella has added garlic, onions, peppers, and vegetables like peas and tomatoes. This is even more common far from Spain, where other influential cooking traditions have deliciously twisted the old favorites with creative additions. Chili powder, jalapenos, and Cajun spices are frequently employed to give it a more powerful kick. Saffron is also a notoriously expensive spice, so alternatives have arisen with more plentiful spices like turmeric, curry, and rosemary to give paella a pleasing undertone and distinctive yellowish color.
While diverse ingredients have enjoyed success, paella is still typically cooked with a tried and proven technique. Spanish paella has long been prepared in a massive, short lipped pan called a paellera. Unfortunately, the largest paelleras are difficult to find and may not be practical for the standard kitchen. They are usually confined to restaurants.
However, smaller options abound at cooking stores and online shopping centers like Amazon for making a manageable and great tasting paella at home. While nothing beats gorging on the seafood infused rice right out of the pan, as Spanish traditionalists do, modern technology has made it possible to get the correct ingredients and tools in a flash for making this delicacy at home.
Now that you know what paella is, you'll probably be rushing to gather ingredients. Don't forget to use a good recipe! Just search Infobarrel or Google to turn up dozens that are as different as they are succulent. Paella is excellent at any time of year, but outstanding in the springtime and summer, when hotter weather gives us days reminiscent of Spain's warm Mediterranean climate.