Is there a tastier, more beautiful way to feed a crowd than paella? The gorgeous Portuguese and Spanish staple comprises a mélange of shrimp, mussels, lobsters, chorizo, or whatever appropriate foods float your boat. It’s a wonderful fit for summertime, since lobsters are ubiquitous and the dish feels light. We reached out to superstar chef George Mendes, who recently helped us launch our Portuguese pantry (and whose piri-piri sauce we’re nuts about) for paella tips. Even if we can’t dine at Mendes’ New York City restaurant Aldea, we’ll be plating it on our Portugal-inspired tableware at home. (This recipe is an excellent starting point.)
“Choose a flat, even pan to cook the paella in,” suggests Mendes. “You don’t want one that has been treated carelessly , banged up and has uneven slopes and bumps, as that will cause uneven cooking.” If you’re in the market for a new pan, consider this beautiful copper Cataplana, intended especially for paella.
2. The Rice
Keep it simple. “Purchase the short grain bomba rice,” says Mendes. “This absorbs the most flavor.”
3. The Broth
“This is where all or most of the flavor is,” advises Mendes. “So take great care in making a delicious broth to start. Whatever ingredients you add to the paella while it cooks will just make it even better!”
The “think seasonally” advice still works with this dish. “Cook a paella reflecting what’s in season at the moment or available fresh at your local market,” says Mendes. This applies to fish, meat and vegetables.
As is true of risotto, patience is key. “Let the paella cook,” says Mendes. “Let the rice absorb the broth naturally and don’t mix it too much, if at all!” Additionally, this is one dish for which a bit of burned rice is something you want. “You want the crisp / slightly burnt soccarat to form on the bottom of the pan,” says Mendes. If you see it, you’ve done something right.