Paella is a Spanish dish primarily characterized by a saffron-scented rice cooked in a very wide, shallow pan with a variety of additions including chicken, sausage, seafood, and rabbit, and vegetables such as onions, peppers and beans. There are many types and many interpretations on the paella theme as it easily lends itself to improvisation. It's is also the perfect party dish, as demonstrated in a recent article from the San Jose Mercury News.
The article features the Oakland, CA restaurant Camino for inspiration, as they are featuring a paella special every Monday in August and September (except Labor Day). Camino chef/owner Russell Moore offers his thoughts on what kind of rice to use (with a controversial Japanese rice being his favorite) as well as tips for cooking paella over an open fire, as he does in his restaurant. Paella is perfect for hot weather, he says, recommending that home cooks build a fire pit outdoors and treat your guests to the theatre of watching you cook the paella, with beer or sangria in hand, of course.
The beauty of paella is that it needs a longish resting period before serving to finish cooking the rice, sometimes up to 45 minutes. This gives the cook a little more breathing space and an opportunity to mingle with guests. And while a paella pan is ideally suited to the task, cookbook author Diana Worthington says any wide, shallow pan would do just as long as it's not cast iron (too hot) or nonstick (prevents the characteristic crust from forming on the bottom).
The San Jose Mercury article also has many photos of Moore cooking paella on his restaurant's beautiful indoor hearth; two paella recipes as well as a recipe for Figs with Burrata and Port-Balsamic; a recipe for sangria; articles on paella pans, the best rice and tips on how to throw a paella party.
Read the Article: How to Throw a Paella Party at San Jose Mercury News
• Sur La Table is offering many paella cooking classes in their stores all across the US in September, as well as a nice selection of Spanish paella pans ($19.95 - $69.95), a paella cookbook (18.95), and saffron ($13.95) in stores and online.
• The Spanish Table is another good source, with many authentic paella pans, ingredients and cooks on offer. They have stores in Berkeley and Milly Valley, CA; Santa Fe, NM; and Seattle, WA as well as an online shop.
Related: Mini-Paella! Summer Seafood Appetizer
(Image: Aric Crabb/San Jose Mercury News)