I want to tread carefully into the waters of writing about certain foods. Food always … always, always, always… has rich cultural roots that wrap around people and their own personal and shared histories. I respect that.
I write this because I am aware that some (if not all) of the recipes I make and (often) write about online are steeped in the cultures of other people. And I share these recipes, writing about them here and other places, simply to express the joy I’ve been given in learning to cook those things (and then sharing the results with my family.) It is a way for me to attempt to honour and more deeply understand those cultures, and hopefully pass along that respect. It also makes me long to visit the homelands of these dishes and see how accurately the recipes have traversed time and distance to reach me here in the middle of the Canadian prairies.
For example, Paella.
To me Paella is a dish that feels like it has deep cultural roots, well-known and tracing back through Spanish origins.
We inherited a paella recipe somewhere along the way that recipe has become a regular staple in our kitchen. It’s one we thoroughly enjoy making and eating even though I cannot lay claim to even a single drop of Spanish blood in my veins.
Our Paella Recipe
500g boneless skinless chicken thighs (chunked)
1 whole red bell pepper (diced)
1 medium yellow onion
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup Arborio
125mL (cheap) white wine
175mL chicken stock
olive oil for pan
The broth and the saffron need to come together for a start.
The chicken then needs to be browned, and separately sweat the onion and pepper. I do this in batches in the same four quart braiser and everything turns out just a little nicer.
The veggies all in the pan, the tomato paste and garlic should be mixed in and fried up together to coat. Shortly after drop in the rice and let that coat up and come together with everything else in the pan. These two steps shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes.
The saffron broth, wine, water, spices, chorizo, and cooked chicken now all go into the pan, come to a light boil, and then are simmered while covered to let the rice cook. You may need to stir this every five minutes or so just so the rice doesn’t get too crunchy on the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the parsley when the rice is cooked and let it stand for a few minutes to set up before serving.
This becomes a rich and delicious one-pan meal and it definitely makes me hope that some day I’ll find my way to Spain to compare it to a more traditionally authentic version of the recipe.