Oh my goodness…it’s here! It’s here again! It’s National Paella Day!
Every year we are graced with this wonderfully special day in which we all get to indulge in this delicious, heavenly, traditional Spanish dish! Here at Mercat, we take our Paella very seriously. It originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. Paella has spread to every region of Spain, as well as worldwide, using almost any type of ingredient that goes well with rice.
There are many versions of recipes of paella. Paella is made with made with rice, chicken, rabbit, fish, shellfish & vegetables along with a delicious sauce. Key ingredients in a fantastic paella are saffron & olive oil. Saffron is an essential spice that also turns the rice a nice golden color & allows the crust that amazing flavor. Bomba rice is the absolute best for absorbing the flavors of the oil, stock, & other ingredients. Arborio, can get a little on the creamy side in a paella pan, but it’s still an OK substitute if you can’t find bomba. Sauté the aromatics & meat in slightly more olive oil than you think you’ll need until they start to brown ever so slightly. Then add the rice & cook until translucent, about two minutes. Add hot stock — about three parts stock to one part rice & let the dish simmer for at least 20 minutes, rotating the pan to evenly distribute the heat….but do not stir!
That’s when the socarrat watch be¬gins…. The socarrat, from the Spanish word “socarrar,” which means “to toast lightly,” is to paella what the smoke ring is to a brisket: a technique that can take a lifetime to master & that is the indicator of how well you’ve executed the dish.
Use all your senses to find that five minute window when there’s a nice crust on the bottom before it crosses the line to charred. You should start to smell a slightly toasty, but not burned, aroma, & when you gently press the end of a spoon into the center of the paella, you should be able to feel the socarrat crust forming. ! If the bottom layer of your rice yields a golden caramelized crust, called socarrat, you know you’ve reached the pinnacle of paella greatness!
If you’re feeling frisky & need to get your Paella fix on the 27th of March, Mercat a la Planxa is where you will want to be! We welcome you to join us in our newly renovated, gorgeous, Catalan gem nestled here in the heart of Chicago!