Neither Samantha nor I have ever attempted “real” paella, because by all reports it seems complicated and time-consuming. I’ve done cheaters-versions, but they lacked a depth of flavor and cohesiveness. Thus, in all honesty, we thought this cook club might be one of those cautionary tales where best attempts to follow instructions were thwarted by their length, exactitude, and the requirement of specific equipment. We would be wrong. You can even put it on the weeknight dinner project list because it’s that easy, but it is also impressive, so you might want to save it for weekend company. And unlike our last Cook Club, dinner was served at 8pm vs. 11:30pm (not kidding...sometimes we bite off more than we can chew...literally and metaphorically).
We opted to use a large roasting pan, instead of purchasing a paella pan. I’m sure the Spaniards would object, but it still got that socarrat (the burnt part of the rice when it sticks to the pan), and since we’re in Los Angeles and not Barcelona, we’re just going to call it authentic.
Because it’s fall/winter, we were angling for pairing it with a red wine, but we also wanted to incorporate seafood, thus a slight conundrum. We decided to grill shrimp so it got a nice smokiness which would be okay with a lighter bodied red, and opted for milder pork sausage rather than chorizo or merguez, which might lead you to a bigger red. We tried it with two wines: a smoky California Pinot Noir and an earthy Tempranillo from Rioja (plus we had a funky Malvasia blend white from Lazio, Italy to start with, because two bottles isn’t enough). The Rioja was the hands-down winner with it’s richer yet subtler fruit. What can we say, Spanish Food goes well with Spanish Wine. We didn’t invent the concept, but if it works, it works!
We largely followed this NYTimes recipe, adding the grilled shrimp, grilled sausage, and using homemade fish stock left over from our more challenging “Mussels Project” months back.
Not going to lie. We made enough for a small army. We both had mountains of leftovers, and despite eating nothing by paella for days, we were both sad to see it actually disappear. Don’t be daunted. Do it!