I absolutely love Spain. The culture, the people, the enthusiasm for life and for food. Where else in the world can you go, at half past midnight, and see three generations of people celebrating no particular occasion outside of a cafe? Where else in the world can you find a 24" pan of paella — piping hot, and filled to the brim with fresh seafood? Though the former may be hard to replicate, the latter is something worth throwing a party for.
Years ago, I might have cringed a little at an invitation to a Paella-palooza. This was before I knew that a paella didn't have to be saturated in olive brine. This was before I went to Spain, and had the real thing — before I tasted the dish prepared over a hot flame long enough to develop a crispy blackened socarrat.
A traditional Spanish paella is much like a traditional Spanish experience — full of the world's best flavors, and built around history, tradition, and community. Just as you would take your time sipping a cortado outside a cafe, you take your time letting the paella cook, meld, and develop sophistication in the pan.
A paella is the perfect dish to rally a circle of friends around. It's unpretentious, and intriguing. Here are pictures from a paella event I just went to last week — a gathering that celebrated the essence of Spain.
Let it serve as inspiration for your own paella party — just add wine, music, and good people.
Try This Recipe: Paella a la Marinera from Saveur
(Images: Chris Perez)