One of my fondest memories of being in Valencia, Spain (one of my favorite places that deserves a separate post) is getting to have paella.  After all, Valencia is considered to be the birthplace of the great dish.  We took a tram to the shore where we visited La Pepica, an historic restaurant overlooking the boardwalk and beach.


Fast forward way too long, insert lots of begging by husband, and I finally make my first attempt at serving paella.

I'd looked at paella pans in various stores like Sur La Table and World Market.  But I'd also read that you can squeak by in just a big skillet (depending on the servings you're preparing).

I cooked mine in a 10 1/2" cast iron skillet (as I finished off the dish in the oven for the last 15 minutes or so -- easy to go from stove top to oven without transferring it).  Even for the recipe for 4-6 that I followed, it was nearly overflowing in the pan.  I think as a result, it came out much more moist and less crispy than the delicious dish we had in Spain (almost more like arroz con pollo), but I was surprised at how easy it is to make.  And still really delicious!

Homemade paella with figs and Manchego cheese

The recipe I used is one from a book I found a while back at a library sale, The Art of Spanish Cooking.  What a handy resource, for a buck!  I think you can still find used copies on Amazon.

Online I researched what types of rice to use, in the absence of authentic Valencia rice.  One suggested stand-in was Calrose, which is a japonica rice.  I found some in the local Earth Fare market.

The beauty of paella is:

  • it's a 1-dish meal, so less clean-up
  • it uses ingredients you likely have on hand
  • you can customize it and throw in what you like and omit what you don't
  • there are loads of recipes floating around (about 5 million hits on Google for paella recipe!)

I'll definitely be putting this on the short list to make again.  It's just a shame I hadn't done it before now!