My husband and I spent our Saturday at Iberia learning Jose-Luis’ style of Spanish Paella, done three ways. We were led to the patio where three work stations were prepared for us, complete with a stove and a paella pan, all prep’ed and ready to go.
As he explained the entire process and oriented us to the ins and outs of good paella making, the sangria came, followed by cold and hot tapas dishes. What a day! It was sunny and cool but very pleasant for February in the Bay Area. About 66-68 degrees, I think. We all wore light sweaters and donned our aprons.
There were three stations that day for the three paellas. I was assigned to the meat paella station. My husband was in the seafood paella station. The third group did the vegetarian paella. So Californian!
After a period of chopping, slicing and dicing, we started. First went the onions, that needed to be caramelized before the garlic went in. (I used my iPhone to take the photos!)
Once the onions and the garlic were soft and fragrant, we pushed them to the edges of the paella pan, where the temperature tends to be a little cooler. Then we added the diced green bell peppers in the center to tenderize. We sprinkled salt on the peppers.
Once the green peppers were tender, we mixed the onions with it. Then we pushed them again to the edges to make way for the tomatoes and again, some salt. Now the sofrito is complete.
Then we distributed the raw bomba rice evenly on top.
Then we poured savory broth with saffron over the pan to cover the rice and allow to simmer until rice is cooked and the broth has evaporated. We were cautioned that it is better to under-cook the rice than to overcook it. The latter is an absolute mortal sin among paella aficionados.
Voila! The paella is now ready:
And so, we moved inside to the dining table where the three paellas were served for us to feast on:
We learned that the paella is all about the rice. How well it’s done just right. How it needs to be saturated with the flavor of everything that was cooked with it. How it takes center stage and all else are supporting cast.
All in all, it was a great learning experience. We met fellow food and wine enthusiasts. The task seemed challenging at first but as we developed the flavors, it was clear to see why this dish is one that should be done with an audience and many tasters along the way, weighing in on this and that. It is a dish to help people come together, to commune, and nourish one another. Of course, the free-flowing of sangria always helps!
Now to make this at home! Many many thanks to our Paella Guru, Jose-Luis Relinque of Iberia in Menlo Park.