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Old 07-24-2009, 12:53 AM   #1
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I am going to make Paella and I actually have saffron

So, I am going to attempt paella for the first time next week. I've been wanting to do this for a while. What prompted my decision was the fact that today I found saffron for 50 cents at a garage sale.

No joke, good saffron (at least it appears to be good). From a woman whom said she was never interested in it. Sealed in a package, no way it could have been tampered with, new, expires in 2013 SAFFRON - for 50 cents. (It was a gift from her sister whom had just traveled to Greece.)

I have been tempted to buy saffron but have never been able to figure it into the budget rationaly.

So here's my chance to cook with it.

My question...is there anything I should know about how I handle saffron, how I cook with it? And of course, any paella tips? There are a gazillion recipes out there. I'm excited to make it, any methods I should know about? Any ingredients to stay away from?

I should add, I'm scared of screwing up this dish...I have an ingredient I normally can't buy so I don't want to waste it!

Thank you!

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Old 07-24-2009, 09:31 AM   #2
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Paella is actually less difficult than it appears.

Philosophically speaking, this was a dish that was designed to get as much flavor into the rice (which is the bulk of the dish) as possible. Everything contributes to this - your meat choices, the veggies, the broth, the spices, all of it. We Americans haven't quite figured out that rice is much tastier cooked in something other than plain water.

First thing I recommend is that you go for something closer to the traditional Valencian paella (no seafood, just chicken and rabbit) to simplify, because many people ruin their paella by overcooking the seafood on the first try. I actually prefer to use just chicken thighs, not whole chicken, because the thigh is the most flavorful part, and by using just one part of the bird, I can be confident that it will all reach the same level of doneness, instead of some parts being grossly overcooked while others are barely done.

The most challenging part of the dish is the socarrat - the lightly toasted (not burned) rice on the bottom. Get this right, and you've mastered the art.

The trick is, getting enough liquid (usually chicken broth) into the uncovered pan so all the rice will actually cook to done over the course of the 40 minutes or so you'll be stewing it, and then the rice just starts to go dry a few minutes before you remove it from the heat - this is where the toasting happens, and where you'll have to watch it like a hawk.

I actually have a YT show up where I did it with chicken, chorizo, and shrimp (because I couldn't get any fresh rabbit)

As to your question about the saffron - you're going to know immediately when there's enough in there. The whole dish will start to take on a yellow hue. Add the saffron right after you add your broth, it will diffuse into the dish much easier with liquid in the pan.

One more thing I would recommend to a first-timer - get a short grain rice. I used Basmati on the show - and I would NOT recommend that to a beginner - it's much tougher to get long-grain done properly the first time out.

One more thing - you definitely need a large, shallow pan for this exercise. If you want to order a paella pan, PaellaPans.com is a great place to get them cheap.

I'm not much for single-use kitchenware, though, so I prefer a 15" (or larger) cast iron pan. I got 4 solid servings and a bit of leftover out of a 15".

Hope this helps!
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Old 07-24-2009, 10:50 AM   #3
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I usually use my carbon-steel wok for making paella, although sometimes I'll make it in regular cookware & then transfer it into my clay cazuela for serving.
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Old 07-24-2009, 10:55 AM   #4
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Great advice Metal Chef - I've not tried cooking
Paella yet -
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Old 07-24-2009, 11:00 AM   #5
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Great advice Metal Chef - I've not tried cooking
Paella yet -
If you've ever made a risotto (successfully), you're halfway there, because, again, getting all the rice done is half the battle.
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Old 07-24-2009, 11:08 AM   #6
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Jeni - a pinch of saffron is about 3-5 threads or so. Depending on how much you are making you may need to add more. Start out with less as A. Saffron is expensive and B. Saffron has a strong flavor.
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Old 07-24-2009, 11:47 AM   #7
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A. Saffron? B. Saffron? Not ever having purchased saffron but it's on my list of ingredients to try some day - what's the real difference between the two?
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Old 07-24-2009, 11:49 AM   #8
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A. Saffron? B. Saffron? Not ever having purchased saffron but it's on my list of ingredients to try some day - what's the real difference between the two?

It's one saffron. I believe kitchenelf was just giving two reasons to start out with less saffron at first and add more as needed. Two reasons: A. it's expensive and B. It costs a lot.
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Old 07-24-2009, 12:01 PM   #9
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She means to use just a little because:

REASON NUMBER 1: Saffron is expensive, and

REASON NUMBER 2: Saffron has a strong flavor.

I agree completely. I would add that not everyone likes the taste of saffron the first time they encounter it -- it's quite different from the flavors of spices and herbs with which most Americans are familiar. Start with a little, increase as you get used to and decide you like the taste of saffron.

BTW, I love saffron and tend to use a lot in recipes that call for it (which still ain't very much).
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Old 07-24-2009, 12:42 PM   #10
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Paella can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. I've made some very good paella using a rice mix with chunks of chicken, sauteed with chorizo and then throw some raw shrimp on top for a few minutes to cook. Took a half hour and it was wonderful. Or I have spent much much more time to make it absolutely authentic and I'm not sure if my dinner guests appreciated the difference. Do some googling and find a recipe that you feel comfortable with. It WILL be good.
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Old 07-24-2009, 12:51 PM   #11
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chorizo: the dried, Spanish type stuff, right? We have mostly the fresh, Mexican type around here. Or do you make it with either?
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Old 07-24-2009, 01:06 PM   #12
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You can make it with either. In fact, you can really use any type of sausage that suits you. There are MANY different types of authentic paella - some don't have any seafood at all, just poultry & game. Some feature rabbit. Some feature different sausages. It's only here in the U.S. that when you say "paella" people automatically think of seafood.

I normally make mine with chicken or turkey chorizo, chicken, & a variety of seafood - squid, mussels, clams, shrimp, sometimes lobster. I also like to add sliced roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, & green peas to the mix.
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Old 07-24-2009, 01:16 PM   #13
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You can make it with either. In fact, you can really use any type of sausage that suits you. There are MANY different types of authentic paella - some don't have any seafood at all, just poultry & game. Some feature rabbit. Some feature different sausages. It's only here in the U.S. that when you say "paella" people automatically think of seafood.

I normally make mine with chicken or turkey chorizo, chicken, & a variety of seafood - squid, mussels, clams, shrimp, sometimes lobster. I also like to add sliced roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, & green peas to the mix.
The truly "authentic" Valencian Paella has no seafood in it. Rabbit was for the wealthy, chicken for the poor. The Valencian province was a big swamp. The earliest iterations included marsh rats and snails, because that's what the poor marsh fishermen could get.
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Old 07-24-2009, 01:18 PM   #14
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chorizo: the dried, Spanish type stuff, right? We have mostly the fresh, Mexican type around here. Or do you make it with either?
I like the fresh stuff myself, because it really permeates the dish when you're working with ground chorizo out of the casing. If you like big chunks of chorizo, by all means, go Spanish.
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Old 07-24-2009, 01:22 PM   #15
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now I want some!!! What type of rice do y'all use?
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Old 07-24-2009, 01:52 PM   #16
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now I want some!!! What type of rice do y'all use?
Ideally, Granza. Arborio works well in a pinch.
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Old 07-24-2009, 02:46 PM   #17
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Important thing to remember about paella is that it was originally peasant-type food, that combined rice with whatever else happened to be on hand, as TheMetalChef suggests. So you really can't do it "wrong." I like the combo of flavors using chicken, chorizo and shrimp. Sometimes I add clams or mussels if I have them. Try to resist getting hung up on the authenticity - cook what you enjoy eating.
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Old 07-27-2009, 04:49 PM   #18
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Made the paella today! I used dark meat chicken, chorizo and shrimp for my proteins. The shrimp went in at the very end.

Wow, saffron is GOOD! I can see why people like it so much! It really brought out the flavors and also added a little extra 'something.'

Ingredients - chorizo, chicken thighs and drums, shrimp, peas, rice, red pepper, green pepper, garlic, onion, tomatoes, saffron, water, salt and pepper.

Thanks a ton for the directions and help!
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Old 07-27-2009, 04:58 PM   #19
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what kind of chorizo did you use, fresh or dried?
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Old 07-27-2009, 05:01 PM   #20
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Fresh chorizo
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