Sunday is National Paella Day! Yasssss! Oh my goodness. I can not tell you how much I love that traditional, super moist and robust rice pan, hailing from Valencia, Spain. The first time I had a legit one was in 1997 during a family trip to Andalucia. We were traveling with my grandparents, whom had never travelled outside of Cuba and the US. It was a new experience for them. My grandfather, having had an enviable zest for life, was enamored with the similarity in our cultures. The food was outstandig, the music seductive, and the accent a bit challenging to discern at first. But it was the food that ticked him the most. Abuelo loved to eat well. He had a phenomenal appetite and savoured food in a way I’ve not seen in anyone else. Well, maybe chef Francis Mallman. Goodness. That man there does it for me. So, yeah, my abuelito was in love with the consistent dining schedule we had going on.
The restaurant where we had paella was small and rustic. We sat in the pebbled patio, underneath a huge tree having the appearance of an ancient stump whose branches hold stories of every person ever having stopped by for a meal. Imagine the entrance of the mansion featured at the end of The Godfather III, where Michael Corleone, geniously played by Al Pacino, was sunken in his chair, waiting for death to kill his broken heart. That’s exactly what this spot looked like. The vibe was eerily similar.
The setting was too dreamy and the food was cooked to the point of full cultural immersion. The paellas were brought out in small individual casuelas. My parents enjoyed a robust version with all the works: mariscos galore. My sis, abuelo and abuela and I opted for the chicken versions — almost a faux pas. My brothers went for the middle ground, playing it safe for teenagers learning a new culture. We also had plantains. Talk about collisions of African based traditions.
We left feeling like students of Spanish food. I still remember that lunch. I’ve not toyed with paella at home in longer than I will admit here. Nothing more than my comittment to my simple white rice and my recent obsession with all kinds of risotto. Plus, we have a very similar ensopado yellow rice. My arroz con pollo, mostly adapted from my mother’s recipe, can be compared to a traditional paella. I add more broth, leaving it more moist than my mother would prefer and I always default to saffron, another flavor she can’t tolerate. But it’s the core basis for the superb flavor paella is known for.
Full disclosure. I’ve still not committed to making an extraordinary paella at home. But when friends for the cause — really those who’ve been poking and wondering when I’m going to host a big, fat, fabulous dinner party in my new home — introduce you to a brand that’s as authentic and authentic goes, offering anyone an effortless approach to making a really good version, you try it. You entertain the idea knowing you are going to have fun playing around with mimicking the campesinos toiling over a hot and wider–than-life pan.
Creative Culinary introduced me to a collection of Spanish products imported directly from Europe. Within the attractive inventory, they offer a super easy DIY paella stash with everything you need to make a delicious pan of rice at home and in very little time.
Matiz Velenciano rice which absorbs really well the amount of liquid needed to make a great paella; Valenciano Aneto Paella Base — the liquid base you need to make it most and full of flavor is made with an all natural broth made with fresh vegetables, meats and high grade saffron — and a jar of Matiz Organic Piuillo peppers, which add a hint of smoke and color.
Make your own sofrito, add protein, break out the traditional pan and you are on your way to making a pretty authentic Spanish dish, a la casera gourmet.
The pan is essential in allowing the rice to spread out and cook faster. But it’s all in the base. The single carton has every ingredient and full flavor profile you are familiar with. I used the entire carton and was honestly impressed with the color and smell it poured out.
While it does it all for you, doctoring it up to your palate and your protein preferences is where you start. I sautéed a mire pix and added some smokey lil’ beef sausages. Chicken would have worked but my goal was to make a great dish with as little additional effort as possible. That would give me a better idea of how true the base is. Totally legit. The sausages added texture and depth, but the bases surprisingly covers it all.
The trio, which you can find here, comes with a recipe booklet and visual directions. To note, it says to cook 10 minutes on high, then lower to a simmer for an additional 10 minutes. It took me on hour and extra 1/2 cup of vegetable broth to get the rice al dente. If you want a softer rice, I’d recommend turning heat to medium after the initial boil and then lowering to low for 30 minutes. Covering it may work too for the initial 20 minutes to trap the moisture and help in expediting the cook time.
This was a welcome break from the weeklong pressure cooking cookbook photoshoot I just wrapped last week. I ate this back to back and gave the reset to my brother who loves soupy rice.
Level up your fancy Sunday on National Paella Day at home with a simple, no stir, no standing, no hovering paella kit. Check them out at @culinary_collective for more recipe ideas and other authentic Spanish recipes.
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
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Smokey Beef Paella
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery, diced
- ¼ cup red bell pepper, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 oz. little beef franks
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1.5 cups Matiz Valencia rice
- entire carton of Aneto Paella liquid base
- 2 pieces of piquillo pepper from Matiz jar, 1.5″ wide julienne
- cilantro or parsley for garnish
Heat olive oil in the paella pan. Make a sofrito with the onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers and celery, cooking on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the beef and brown a bit, about 2 minutes. Add in rice and stir for two minutes. Pour in the liquid and stir, evening out the rice and leveling. Do not stir any more. Cook on high heat for 15 minutes then lower to medium. Cook for 10 minutes then lower to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. If rice is still hard to taste, add in an additional half up of vegetable broth and cover for 10 minutes.
Garnish with piquillo peppers and parsley. Serve rice pan to your guests, providing only individual plates and utensils.