Friday, September 20, 2019


For World Paella Day, my non-traditional paella.

Go on, put some sausage in your paella today. Eat it for supper instead of at midday. Scatter peas on top or add mussels, if you like. València gives you permission to break all the rules. But, just for one day, mind you. 

True València paella has no sausage, no chorizo, no seafood. It’s rice (medium-short grain) cooked with chicken/rabbit/duck plus snails (!), flat green beans and plump butter beans. And it’s only ever consumed in the afternoon, never at night.

But on the web page for World Paella Day, Valencianos declare that, on this day, “we put aside our differences and celebrate the internationality of paella,” a dish of humble Valencian origin that, judging by 8 million web searches on paella per year, makes it the fourth most important dish on the planet. One young man goes so far as to say that, just for today, his mom’s paella is not the best paella in the world.

Chef Jeff Weiss stirs up a traditional paella at Valencian Gold Restaurant. in Las Vegas. Read more about Jeff Weiss here. (Photo by Valencian Gold.)

I couldn’t find snails or duck, anyway. So I was ready for some radical paella moves. I turned for inspiration to a friend, Jeffrey Weiss (chef and author of CHARCUTERÍA--THE SOUL OF SPAIN). Jeff and his partner-in-paella, Paras Shah, recently opened a fast-casual restaurant in Las Vegas, USA, called Valencian Gold, featuring “build your own paella bowl.” Choose chicken, seafood, mushroom-chickpea or mixed grains paella. Add greens, i.e., spinach or rucola! Then choose grilled chicken, lamb, steak or shrimp or, vegan, ratatouille or herb-bean to go with the paella base. Add sauce/dip and salads.

“It’s funny about paella here in the US,” says Jeff. “Folks have varying ideas of what it's ‘supposed’ to be. Whereas, if you ask a Valenciano, paella valenciana is and forever will be rabbit, snails, and a few kinds of beans... and all else is arroz con cosas.

“I’m in the camp that Paella Valenciana has specific ingredients and should be respected for the tradition it comes from. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for creativity or paella libre. So for me, as long as the technique of paella cookery is followed then you’ve made paella.”

The technique of paella cookery means real olive oil, real saffron, real paella rice (Bomba or another medium-short grain variety) and sofrito or salmorra or salmorreta, a sauce/base of garlic, ñora peppers and tomatoes that builds flavour.

Because the Valencianos have granted permission to break the rules, I decided to put sausage in my paella plus red chard (green leaves and red stems)! My “secret” ingredient: a spoonful of fat rendered from ibérico pork chops along with the olive oil. The sausage I used was chorizo criollo, a raw pork sausage.

Rabbit and beans are typical in València paella, but sausage and red chard are radical!

Saffron plus a sofrito with tomatoes and pimentón color the rice.

Paella, My Way
Paella a Mi Estilo

Sure, paella is best cooked over a wood fire or on one of those gas burner contraptions designed for big paella pans. But if you're cooking indoors, keep the size to a pan that fits on your stovetop.

Ingredients for flavor.

Serves 4-6.

6 ounces flat (Romano) green beans
1 ¾ pounds rabbit, cut in small pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces fresh pork sausage links, such as chorizo criollo
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ cups peeled and chopped tomatoes
4 ñoras (dried peppers), stems and seeds removed, or 1 teaspoon pimentón (sweet paprika)
½ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
¼ cup hot water
2 cups medium-short grain rice
4 cups chicken stock
Sprig of rosemary
½ cup cooked red chard, chopped (optional)

Cut tops and tails off the beans and cut them crosswise in 1 ½ -inch pieces. Blanch them in boiling water until crisp-tender (3 minutes from the time the water returns to a boil). Drain and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

Sprinkle the pieces of rabbit with salt and pepper. Use the cut-up liver too, if you like it.

Heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a 14–inch paella pan. Add the whole sausage links and the pieces of rabbit. Sauté on medium-high heat, turning, until sausages and rabbit are browned. Remove them from the pan.

Add the garlic to the pan for 30 seconds, then add the ñora, if using, or the spoonful of pimentón. Stir it briefly in the oil and immediately add the tomatoes. Cook the mixture on medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until tomatoes are reduced to a jammy consistency. Scrape the sofrito (tomato mixture) into a blender and blend until smooth.

Cook sofrito until tomatoes are thick and jammy.

Combine the saffron and hot water in a cup.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the paella pan. Stir in the rice and the mixture from the blender. Fry the rice for 2 minutes. Add the saffron and its water and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
Use kitchen shears to cut the sausage links into pieces. Place them in the pan with the rice. Add the rabbit and any accumulated juices. Tuck a sprig of rosemary into the rice. Cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice with a wooden paddle. Remove and discard rosemary.

Add the green beans and chopped chard, if using, to the rice. Lower heat to medium-low and cook until rice is just tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Don't stir the paella, but, if necessary, rotate the pan on stove so all sides get direct heat.

Let the paella set 10 minutes before serving.

Paella is best on a sunny afternoon. But, sure, serve it at night if you prefer.


More variations on the paella theme:


  1. And Happy World Paella Day to you, too! I celebrated by dining at Mercado Little Spain in NYC where paella legend Chef Rafael Vidal showed me how to cook the traditional Valencian Paella. Delicious - but not as pretty as yours! Wishing you well. Here's a link to my blog about it:

    1. Richard: Nice story in your blog. Mercado Little Spain sounds great. Maybe I will get there some day. Wishing you well too!

  2. I often think of the wonderful Paella you made years ago in your lovely casa! And I am still telling others about it too!

    1. Patty: I also remember making paella at our gathering in Ocean Shores, WA, with you.

  3. So I was just in Barcelona and took a paella cooking class. I was surprised to learn that the spanish never ever use chorizo or sausage in their paella. And all these years I thought it was a staple. Que surpresa!

    1. Ariel: The issue of chorizo in paella is always good press! I considered it, too, in this blog: After the class, will you make authentic paella or still put chorizo in it?

  4. Paella dish was born in valencia, and people used to do it with the nearest products they had. People tha works at fields used to do it with vegetables and small animals that they raised at home. Fishermans, obviously with fish and seafood. Have you heard "paella de fetge de bou"? made by people who worked at
    slaughterhouses and butcher shop. For your information "paella" in Valencian language means skillet

    1. Paella Cooking Class: Thanks for adding to my understanding of paella. I thought the World Paella Day was fun because the valencianos were granting the rest of us permission to break the rules!