The Paella is the pan used to cook this legendary dish, and Valenciana refers to the region of Spain on the shores of the Mediterranean where it originated. It is typically cooked outdoors in the countryside on a dry wood fire. The Paella must be set at a suitable height to be surrounded by flames during the first part of the cooking, and the fire must be kept burning at the correct strength. Generally, good Paella depends not so much on the quality of the ingredients as on combining all the components in the correct proportions. The five basic elements – oil, water, rice, heat, and cooking receptacle – need to be balanced with an almost mathematical precision.
The experience and personal touch of whoever is in charge of the cooking are also of utmost importance. The preparation of Paella in the countryside is a ritualistic, festive occasion which can sometimes turn into a gastronomic debate! The relaxed, lighthearted atmosphere is punctuated with jokes and comments on the progress of the food. The experience culminates when the Paella is deemed ready, removed from the fire and carried to the table. Paella Valenciana has Bomba rice, rabbit or pork, green beans, chicken, snails, tomatoes, paprika, and saffron. Peggy’s version of Paella Valenciana will use seafood, pork, chicken, beans, chorizo, and Bomba rice. That’s a mouthful! Bring an apron to class.