Paella is probably the most controversial recipe in Spain, die hard purists will insist that the authentic Valencian recipe is the real paella whereas others will say that paella is one of those versatile dishes which will accommodate any number of ingredients. In short (unless you are a purist) there are no hard and fast rules, indeed just like Mama used to make does not necessarily result in the most authentic Spanish paella nor does it mean that it is a bad one either consider Fideua a paella made with pasta which also originates from Valencia . . . pity the poor soul who many decades ago forgot the rice for the family paella yet in the end redeemed himself by creating a paella with pasta.
Paella is and will continue to be one of those dishes which over time will adapt depending on the chef or budding cook who wants to test his or her culinary skills recreating the most famous dish from Spain. To create a good paella we need to go back to the building blocks of any rice based dish and that is liquid, or in this case good stock. Most paella kits on the market these days will contain stock cubes which are fine, they do the job but for a really good paella home made stock will make all the difference so pop those chicken carcasses into a bag and freeze for later or boil up and make the stock first and pop that in the freezer too.
Home made stock is by far the best for flavour however there is an alternative method to making a paella stock, particularly if you are using meats such as chicken or pork. The majority of paella recipes include meat and the best way to serve meat in your paella is on the bone. Using meat on the bone such as chicken pieces, pork rib, rabbit, etc will add much more flavour, help prevent the meat from drying out and offer a good stock whilst being cooked in the pan prior to the addition of the rice. Making a quick stock this way may go against the grain for many paella enthusiasts/makers but in Spain this is the way stock is made for meat paella. It does however pay to keep some extra stock aside in case more is required but in the main all of that lovely flavour comes from both the meat and the bones with the simple addition of water.
Easy as paella! The technique for creating perfect paella stock:
- Fry your chosen meat in garlic until browned all over.
- Add vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
- When the ingredients begin to stick add warm water.
By adding the warm water to all of the ingredients you achieve much more flavour both through the meat on the bone and also the fried vegetables which results in a hearty meat stock with all the goodness from peppers, tomatoes, garlic, beans or whatever you may be adding. This is a simple technique for what is essentially a very simple dish just remember to ladle in your hot water counting as you go as the general rule for standard paella rice is 2 parts water to 1 part rice. The difference in making stock this way will certainly impact on the flavour of your Spanish paella. Give it a go next time and you will not be disappointed!