Back in the eighties, we attempted a multiple breed horse show in San Antone. We were there with our side-saddle-Peruvian horse drill team, because the show was emphasizing breeds which descended from Spanish horses brought over during the conquest of the Western Hemisphere in the 1500’s. There we saw our first Andalusians, with flowing manes and tails and high-stepping action. It was an exciting and educational time.
That evening we were treated to a traditional Spanish meal — Paella (pie-AYE-yah). As we dove in, getting our hands messy and tasting the immense variety of the rice and seafood dish, we fell in love with it.
Paella began being made by the hunters in Eastern Spain, essentially it is hunter’s stew. That area grows rice in abundance so that forms the basis of the dish, saffron rice. There are essentially three parts to paella: sofrito, rice and seafood.
The sofrito is cooked in a large paella pan over an open fire (even in restaurants in Spain where paella is served, I’m told, the cooking is still done outside). The olive oil is heated and rabbit and/or chicken are fried; then fennel, onion, tomato, peppers etc. are added and cooked down. Next the rice is added a fried in the oil, stirred into the meat and vegetable sofrito. A certain amount of water and saffron is then added, to the boiling rice, and no more stirring. Finally, green peas, shrimp, fish, clams are added to the top for the last few moments of cooking.
The Valencians of the Southeast claim to have the only “real” paella. But the Barcelonans and “the best.” You choose.