paella advice [Cooking]

2008 Apr 14
This coming weekend I am planning on making paella for the first time. The ingredients are not the issue but rather the method. It seems from what I have read that it is a must to use a "paella pan". Does anyone have any experience with this? Is a paella pan really all that necessary? If yes, are they readily available and/or hugely expensive?

Thanks!

2008 Apr 14
I don't know anything about this dish, but Superstore has PC brand pans at a very good price. Anodized aluminum. Very large size. Maybe 30 bucks. OK, they are steep walled and high-walled where (wikipedia tells me that) paella pans are shallow, but I'm not sure how that could matter. The huge PC pan would be a lot more versatile.

2008 Apr 14
I always just use a large skillet or frying pan.

2008 Apr 14
I've always just used a large skillet as well, but I usually don't make a very large amount of it. I've seen paella pans at Ma Cuisine on Dalhousie. I can't recall the prices, but I think they were in the 20-30 dollar range.

2008 Apr 14
If you have a wok I bet you could do the paella in that.

2008 Apr 14
if you were to ask a Spaniard, they would say yes it's necessary but imo, no a large skillet will do.

2008 Apr 14
Thanks for the help! I will probably go for the large skillet and plead ignorance if our Spanish dinner guest comments on it!

Cheers

2008 Apr 14
I've never considered making paella myself but this sounds appealing, especially the bit about the "socarrat": www.taunton.com

I think a large skillet would work just fine. And gas heat would make it easier to control the finer points of simmering and browning.

2008 Apr 15
the deal with the low walled larger pan is that it precipitates a more even and quicker reuction of the rliquid used to cook the rice. Any pan will do as long as it is shallow, hell I used to use my B&D electric frying pan!

2008 Apr 15
I'm not sure how depth matters - isn't it a surface area thing? I realise that typically higher pans have smaller surface area, but the one I'm thinking of at PC was a very large frying pan size but also fairly high walled (4 or 5 inches).

i.e. if I have a high-walled pan that is the same surface area as a low-walled pan, it should be the same, no?

2008 Apr 15
To answer Zymurgist's question ~ Depth of pan? Not so much. Depth of ingredients in the pan is more the thing here.

The traditional shape of paella pans maximizes the amount of rice touching the bottom ("where the flavour lives") allowing for an even and rather quick evaporation of the cooking liquids. Both conditions are necessary for cooking an authentic paella.
Phrased another way: think of paella cooking by extension rather height and, if all goes well, it will produce the socarrat ("lightly toasted" in Catalan) layer mentioned above. Mmm.
So, if you're using a large saucepan instead, ensure it's heavy-based and keep your rice layer thin(ish). Good luck!

2008 Apr 15
Zymurgist, I think you'll find that bruce-the-chef is on the money. Things reduce faster in shallow pans. This is probably because in a pot the steam can only go straight up whereas a shallow pan offers more freedom -- the steam can spill out the sides in any direction as well as going up. The quicker the steam leaves, the quicker the pan dissipates moisture, and the quicker the liquid reduces.

2008 Apr 16
OK, that sort of makes sense ... I'll buy it at least until I can prove or disprove it (which will be never) :-)

2008 Apr 21
Its too late for last weekend but I noticed a brushed steel paella pan on sale at Stokes in Bayshore for $11.99 this past weekend. Regular $19.99.

2008 Apr 23
Thanks for the tip, W.C. -- I just bought it today for $12.98. The last one on the shelf. It's made of inexpensive carbon steel but the handles are stainless steel. Care and feeding are much like a steel wok and I can see it will be useful for all sorts of browning and cooking activities!

Jules, how did your Paella turn out? I need a good recipe now! :-)

2008 Apr 24
FF - my paella was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Actually, my Spanish friend (for whom I had the dinner) said it was delicious and the soccorato was right on. There were 10 of us, all told, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

I bought spanish chorizo from sausage kitchen in the market, the clams, mussels and shrimp at the New 168 Market, the saffron and arborio rice at Bulk Barn and everything else at the grocery store.

The temptation to turn the heat up while making this is high, but you really just need to let it do its thing on an even medium heat.

Here is the recipe I used, it's from jasoncooks.blogspot.com

I will post a photo this evening.

Seafood Paella

1 pound shrimp
2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound chorizo or spicy sausage sliced into inch thick slices
1 pound mussels
1 pound clams
1 teaspoon saffron (combined with 2 Tablespoons boiling water)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic minced (I used about 5 cloves, personal preference)
4 bay leaves
3 roma tomatoes, minced
1 pound frozen peas
3 cups medium grained rice
6-8 cups chicken stock
1 Bunch Parsley, chopped
1 Lemon, cut into wedges

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. In 16 paella pan, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium high heat, add shrimp and cook until just pink, remove from pan. Add 2 more tablespoons vegetable oil, add chicken and cook until lightly browned and cooked through (no pink in the middle), remove from pan. Add chorizo to pan and cook until golden brown, do not drain grease. Add onion, garlic and bay leaves, and cook until translucent and slightly golden, then add peas. Next, add tomatoes and cook until soft, add rice and cook until all oil/liquid is absorbed. Turn heat down to medium, add 4 cups chicken stock, and saffron mixture, cook while stirring occasionally until all liquid is absorbed. Add 1 cup of stock at a time and cook until rice is al dente. (this should take about 20-30 minutes and mixture should never boil rapidly, but instead simmer slightly, or your liquids will evaporate too quickly). Turn off heat and stir in shrimp and chicken. Next add mussels and clams hinge side down and place in oven. Cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes until mussels and clams open and cooked through (discard any that do not open). Cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley and a lemon wedge.

2008 Apr 24
Jules - This sounds delicious! I think now that I have so much more information about cooking Paella (the discussion here was so beneficial) that I think I too may try this at home. Thanks.

2008 Apr 26
Apparently this is the best picture that I have of paella - drinking wine impairs my ability to photograph things, sorry!

2008 May 1
That's awesome. I love how every mollusc is facing up!

2008 May 1
Momo: my thoughts exactly! Very impressive Jules, looks delicious! Thanks for posting the recipe.