Paella, ” … it’s an orgiastic feast for the senses. A festival of sights, sounds and colors.” Kramer (Seinfeld, The Raincoats, Part 2, 1994)
Sounds like a party to me. I don’t know about you, but the idea of a festival of sights, sounds and colors all wrapped up in one good party dish sounds like nirvana to me. The party is all about the meshing of big deliciousness in a big ‘ol Paella pan. What kind of person on this earth could resist such an enticing sensual culinary proposition?
So, the plan is all about getting some really nice ingredients, using great cookware, and ringing up a bunch of cool cats to share and savor the bounty. Just so you know, I’m all about vintage cookware, well, and you know, food, of course. Since I’m diving in, the history, recipes, stories, and folk lore can be quite a fun read. So, follow me for some random little nuggets of Paella truths.
Cookware Matters & My Almost Dansk Obsession
But that Dansk cookware. To me, it makes every cooking event sooo much better. The stellar quality of good old cookware really adds another dimension to the whole cooking/party thing. It’s where Copenhagen style and design meets superior engineering, man. Plus, Dansk has had Paella pans as part of their cooking repertoire since 1954. You don’t have to be an elitist to appreciate the art of design and quality of the brand. Their mantra: “Timeless Design since 1954, Soul, not surface design, Not decoration, humanity, Not machinery, Creativity, Not Conformity.” I love that.
So I wondered about this Spanish dish, some say, it’s not Spanish at all. And even though it isn’t and hasn’t been “trending” at all, ever, what keeps aficionados interested and true to the craft?
Because Dansk cookware specializes in quality, design and function, I thought there must have been, or is a swank and savvy culinary underground cult, hip to the art and form of “Paella & the Pan”. Who were, and are, these mystic cooks? I am not sure, but I know I already like them, a lot.
Vintage Paella pans have a bit of a holy grail vibe about them, some are in great condition and some have been used with purposeful determination and show their tough but beautiful personalities. What stories they must hold.
But enough about that for now. Just what is this wonderful dish that has captured the imagination and kitchens of cooks who entertain at home with free and confident cosmopolitan abandon?
I wanted to know so much more, which is no easy thing, with it’s ancient roots and diverse ingredient variations. My friend Mark during a few visits to Spain tried Paella in different cities and has determined that this dish is “the pits”, cheap food for poor people. I wasn’t there, but he’s always spot on. Maybe the beloved recipes that we have come to know are the ideation of a perfect Paella, far removed form it’s origins, or what is served to visiting tourists.
Who doesn’t love any dish that begins with rice? Originating a few hundred years ago in the region of Valencia on the Eastern coast of Spain, Paella’s roots have since deepened. It is widely known as Spain’s emblematic dish made from a combination of vegetables and meats with varying ingredients and spices depending on the region. Characteristically it is seasoned with saffron, (but it must be Spanish saffron I have heard), and typically includes other spices as well.
Old as the Hills
But putting some rice together in a pan with whatever else is on hand has got to be as old as the hills. So here’s what I found out about the ancients on the Everyday Food Blog:
” … According to legend, paella comes from the clever way the Moors tackled their leftovers. Servants in the noble courts of Arabic Spain would take home the leftovers from the royal tables, and put them together in a pan with some rice.
This would make a lot more sense as an origin story, since both rice and saffron both came to Spain with the Moors. That’s why modern Spanish still uses versions of the Arabic words for rice and saffron! …”
It’s a very interesting dish with a complicated history, a fringe Spanish, Moorish, Arabic twist of a dish that was at one time favored by Spain’s fascist leader, Francisco Franco. Franco would search out the best Paella in town. Everyone was making the dish, and every shop in town got on that Fascists’ loving Paella wagon. Franco died in 1975 ending Europe’s longest dictatorships, but Paella – lives on.
It’s All About the Rice
So the particular variations and quality of each ingredient in the dish matters, and it matters a lot. From using the correct Spanish saffron and Spanish Chorizo to using the proper rice, from Bonny Wolfe’s Paella Perfect blog at NPR:
“… Real paella, I learned, is all about the rice.
And, you can’t use just any rice. Bomba is the best, and of course, it’s from Spain. This short-grained rice can absorb about three times more liquid than regular rice, meaning three times more flavor for your paella. Despite all the liquid, the rice remains firm. Bomba and other Spanish short-grained rice are available from specialty food shops and by mail. Bomba, however, is not cheap. Fortunately, easily available Arborio — the rice used to make risotto — can be used. Just stay away from long-grained rice that is less absorbent and doesn’t have the right taste or texture. …”
Perfection in a Pan
So, you ask, what is the all time perfect and titillating paella recipe in the land? I am not sure, but this one looks good to me from Spain on a Fork: AUTHENTIC SPANISH SEAFOOD PAELLA. It’s loaded with Spanish flavors, and it is said to be easy to make. Just use the right Paella pan, and you know, I’d say use a my personal favorite the Dansk Paella pan.
So, now you’ve got the mo. Vintage Dansk cookware (because it is my favorite), an authentic storyline for the house party, and a dish designed for sharing, happiness and bringing people together. And I think of the fish markets, butchers, and the outdoor markets in Spain as ingredients are gathered to bring home and prepare a culinary explosion of flavor. In Bonny Wolfe’s Paella Perfect blog she swears by cooking on the open fire. The gathering outside, a sip of sangria, the right music and you might as well be in Spain.
Shop Local & Keep it Truly Authentic
So get outside (even if you opt for the stove), and make an effort to support your small local businesses when you conjure up your so very cool Paella party. In my little, almost seaside town of Dunedin, Florida, we have two great places (that are local, small businesses) to shop for the freshest fish and seafood, caught from local waters every morning, organic meats, and vegetables on the very same street. Jenson Brother’s Seafood and Nature’s Food Patch have it all, and even though it may cost a little more, it is worth every penny, especially now. So, do your part to shop local too. Let’s keep our locals up and running, where ever you may be.
Good Things to Go With
Oh yeah, the Paella. It’s going to be smoking hot. And, as part of the planning part, get your shopping list ready because you’ll probably want a little something to go with the main dish. Here’s what I found and it looks divine from On the Gas, the art, science and culture of food, What To Serve With Paella: From Appetizers To The Drinks: some ideas include a cheese and olive platter, toasted Marcona almonds, fried sweet plantain slices, sangria, and dry sherry. But there’s more, so check it out, especially the desserts.
Have Fun & Keep It Real
It’s all about the gathering at the end of the day, so don’t cheat yourself out of a hella good time. I guess that’s part of the planning part, by getting a bunch of stuff done the day before makes party day, a fun trip. By the way, it’s also swell to have a few authentic good vintage serving pieces and barware to sprinkle around the serving island, picnic table, or patio. So, if you’re into that kind of thing, come visit my shop: VintageByJolie.
One Last Thing (About Dansk)
And in case you’re still interested in knowing why I think Dansk is the cookware bomb of all time, and the best to pair up with your next paella party, check out some deets by Kitchn, 5 Reasons We Love Dansk Kobenstyle Cookware:
” … Dansk Kobenstyle cookware (and tableware) were created as a collaboration between Americans Martha and Ted Nierenberg, who discovered the work of designer Jens Quistgaard in Copenhagen and convinced him that his stylish designs could be mass-produced. Quistgaard became one of the most recognizable influences in mid-century modern design. … their collaboration perfectly illustrated the marriage of Scandinavian design and American mass-production that was at the heart of mid-century modern. …”
Bye, for now …
So, if you like good old stuff, come round and visit me. It’s always an adventure. Stay tuned for whatever comes my way next! Yours, truly, Jolie
All rights reserved. Author: Jolie Baetzel
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