I learned all Paella secrets with my catering staff.
I inherited the secrets from the wonderful staff with whom I worked all my catering years, two of whom still serve as my assistants at my cooking workshops.
One day I decided to learn some rudiments of Spanish:
I might as well say it became my lifeline: if you work in a commercial kitchen, you will find that an overwhelming majority of workers speak only Spanish!
As soon as I started holding my own in Spanish, and that marked the beginning of a new era. My staff was in awe: I was finally one of their own!
Not “la patrona” any more, but Labana.
They have shared wonderful recipes with me, and laughed with delight at my faltering Spanish when I repeated the names of the dishes they now routinely prepared for all of us for lunch: Arroz con Gandules, Chicharrones de Pollo, Albondigas de Pescado, Platanos Fritos, Torta de Almendras.
And of course Paella. Perfect Paella.
They assured me that the success of Paella did not depend on the presence of shellfish, or on the simultaneous presence of fish and meat or poultry (a no-no in kosher cooking), but on a mixture called Sofrito, which gets sautéed in a little olive oil and disperses in the dish in lovely green and red specks.
Saffron is essential, so be sure to include it:
Get a larger container, it will last you and will be much more cost-effective than those tiny vials!
Recently I have been experimenting with Jack’s Gourmet Sausages, with great results. They are delicious, and come in 5 flavors. The Hot Italian flavor was fabulous in this dish! We even taped a nice little clip on You-Tube making Paella with Jack’s Sausages, check it out! What I love about them is, They have no fillers, and are full of flavor. Jack’s Gourmet is hard at work on making the Sausages all natural, which is just fine with this health foods baby!
- 1 12-ounce package Jack's Gourmet Sausages, crumbled
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 ribs celery, peeled and cut in thirds
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 1 small bunch cilantro, stems discarded
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in chunks
- 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup tiny capers
- 1/2 cup sliced green pitted olives
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
- good pinch ground cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- generous pinch saffron
- salt and pepper to taste
- a dozen pieces chicken (drumsticks, thighs, half breasts, skin in, bone in)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups brown basmati rice
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels, optional but a really nice touch
Place the sausage in a large wide bottom pot or skillet, on a high flame, and stir a minute or two, until the sausages look brown and the oil is rendered. Coarsely grind in a food processor the onion, celery, garlic, parsley, cilantro and red pepper (pulse: do not let mixture get watery). This mixture is your Sofrito.
Add the sofrito mixture to the pot, and sauté until translucent. Add the tomatoes, and cook until only ½ cup of liquid remains in the pot.
Add all but last ingredient and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Stir in the corn and cook 1-2 more minutes. Serve hot.
Makes 8 servings.