Saturday, August 22, 2015

32. Cooking Paella

The process is about cooking and enhancing the rice. The soffritto -- sauteed tomato, garlic, onion, peppers,  paprika, and pork in olive oil -- gets it going. The rice is mixed with the soffritto; and it pops and fries as it is enveloped in all that aroma and flavor. The broth is then introduced, and the mixture of soffritto and rice is engulfed while the heat from all that sauteing is diffused by the liquid. In a matter of minutes, everything boils. At this precise moment, the saffron is infused, dissolving and turning the meal into a splendor of orange and yellow. Then, as the liquid is about to dry, the seafood is arranged on top of the rice. It would be cooked at about the same time as the rice. The meal is then covered with foil and removed from the heat. Soon, it is ready to be served. 

In spite of faithful adherence to this age-old recipe, I still cannot claim that I have cooked paella, as some people say that paella can only be cooked the way it is cooked in Valencia, Spain, using Valencian rice and water and by a Valencian male on a Sunday at noon. It is therefore a mistake to call paella, paella outside of Valencia -- as if  people's bellies mind. Yet, for all this conservationist cuisine advocates woe for their lost  culinary heritage, surely they should recognize that paella as cooked in Valencia cannot be divorced from the paella cooked in various parts of the world. To paraphrase Rizal, genius, especially culinary, is everyone's patrimony. I call mine Arroz de los Indios Bravos, or simply paella mio, and enjoy the cooking and eating experience. Ole!

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