Easy Slow Food, Spanish Style — and all under $5 per person.
Several years ago, some dear friends of ours gave us a paellera pan as a gift and as the saying goes, “we’ve never looked back!”
The Valencia inspired paella rice dish can take on several forms — and having experimented with many different versions, here are some of our secrets:
- Rice: the moment-of-truth hits us when we’re at the grocery store and we’re staring at the “wall of rice”. Its mind boggling with so many different kinds of rice staring at us with that “choose me” look: each type of rice has a specific purpose…well, other than being in our stomachs of course!
We think that two varieties of Valencian rice, Bomba or Sollana (Calasparra) work best for paella. Bomba provides the most “authentic” texture, but can often be the most difficult (and expensive) to source. Our local grocery stores don’t carry Bomba rice and we buy it from a specialty grocer.
Bomba is a short grain rice (center): you can really see the size difference when compared to Basmati (left) and Arborio (right). Even going with the Bomba rice, we’re still within our budget of $5 per person.Basmati rice (left), frequently used in Indian cooking, is also used in Mediterranean pilow dishes: we’ve cooked paella using basmati rice and the texture turns out fine, but not “great”.
We’re not fans of using Arborio (right) or any of the other varieties of risotto type rice such as Carnaroli, because we think it makes the paella too “creamy” – more like a saffron infused risotto dish that can sometimes verge on being mushy.
- the stock (liquid) to water ratio will differ — depending upon the type of rice that you ultimately use
- Note that turmeric (for color only, it has a different flavor profile) is often used as a substitute for saffron.
- We think that crushing and steeping the saffron directly before cooking (for 20 minutes) helps to bring out the saffron flavor (especially if one spends the money on real Spanish saffron).
The traditional method of serving paella is family style, served directly in the pan, and eaten with wooden spoons. Enjoy!
In case you’re wondering, here’s the cost breakdown:
|Pro-Rata Cost (because some of these things we already have in our pantry)|
|¼ teaspoon Saffron||$2.00|
|4 cups low-sodium Chicken Stock|| 2.00
(this might be the cost had we purchased it)
|2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil||.25|
|3 cloves Garlic, pressed or pureed||.25|
|1 cup Onion, chopped||.75|
|5 Pimento (cherry) Peppers, de-seeded and chopped||2.25 (farmers market)|
|12 oz Chicken Breast, boneless/skinless, sliced into 1 inch cubes (roughly 1 ½ breasts)||3.75 (@4.99 lb)|
|1 ½ cups Bomba rice||3.00 (1/3 of package)|
|½ teaspoon Paprika||.25|
|Garnish: 2 Tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped (optional)||.25|
|Total|| $14.75 total (serves 4 people)
$3.69 per person