Summer grilling typically brings to mind favorites like hamburgers, salmon and pork chops. If you’re feeling adventurous enough to try something different, how about paella? This traditional Spanish peasant dish was typically cooked over an open fire, so grilling it brings an extra touch of authenticity.
“Paella is a philosophy and a cooking style more than a formula,” says Alex Province, my brother-in-law. Although Alex was raised in the United States, he was born in Madrid and went to graduate school in Spain. Today he is a manager for a wine company, owner of a Spanish wine import company, and a paella connoisseur! He shared some tips with TLD for making this delicious dish.
The first thing to think about is the pan. A paella pan, which is large and shallow, helps but is not absolutely necessary. A large frying pan is a decent stand-in. Alex recommends measuring out the volume the pan can hold by pouring water into it before getting started. Once you know how much the pan will comfortably hold, you can make any necessary adjustments to the recipe.
Next is the rice. It’s important to use Valencia rice, which is intended specifically for paella. “Make sure you don’t put too much rice in the pan,” Alex advises. “You want a nice, thin layer.” You’ll want to stick to a ratio of two cups of hot stock per one cup of rice. Saffron is one of the things that makes this dish special, and you’ll want to put the saffron in the stock before it’s added to the rice. The goal with paella is to make sure all the liquid has absorbed by the time the rice is tender. You’ll want to carefully monitor your paella to make sure it doesn’t burn, but don’t stir it while it’s cooking. It will make the rice mushy.
To cook paella outdoors, Alex recommends at least a 22” non-gas grill, which will accommodate a typical paella pan. Use kindling as the fuel, preferably from a fruit tree such as apple, which will impart the best flavor. The fire will need to burn for about 30 minutes, so make sure you have enough wood. Pile the kindling in the bed of the grill, light it, and replace the grill grate as soon as the fire catches. Place the pan on top of the grate, and cook away.
Pro tip: If grilling doesn’t work so well the first time, it’s not cheating to finish the paella in the oven. Also, tenting your paella with foil at the end of the cooking process will help the rice suck up the extra liquid, so it’s okay for there to be some liquid in the pan when you take it off the grill.
Try it out with our Basic Paella Recipe. This recipe is a good starting point, but feel free to experiment with the dish until you get something that you and your family are proud to call your own. Seafood is delicious in paella, as is rabbit. That being said, this is also an easy dish to make vegetarian. Grilling will add even more flavor to this special dish, so heat up that wood and get cookin’!
What unusual dishes have you experimented with on the grill?