About a month ago I was making Risotto Milanese which calls for saffron (if you missed that post, you can read about it here). Saffron is infamously pricey, but I found a great deal on it at World Market here! Since I got such a great deal, I bought two and have been looking for any excuse to use them since. It’s worth it and will lend your dish a beautiful golden-yellow color and that certain exotic flavor you can’t get with any other seasoning.

Originating in Valencia, Paella is a Spanish dish that typically combines Italian rice, vegetables, chicken, seafood, and of course saffron. Valencia is a noted port city, so it’s no wonder that paella would traditionally be a seafood dish. Many variations have a variety of seafood cooked in it, but this “minimalist” version from the New York Times Cookbook, pares down ingredients for those times when you’re short on time and ingredients, but still want a paella fix. This is also a great starter recipe, calling for only shrimp, for those looking to branch out and still stay within his/her comfort zone.

This recipe called for arborio rice (we usually use Rice Select), but I used my last cup of arborio and a cup of the lesser-known carnaroli rice (we used Cucina Viva, but any brand will do) that was given to me recently. Starchier and firmer than it’s cousin, Carnaroli is actually the preferred rice for a risotto, but arborio is pretty versatile and more well-known. If you’re interested in reading more about the differences in risotto rices, this short article from Fine Cooking is helpful and to-the-point.

One thing I love about this cookbook is that it not only lists servings suggestions as well as brief captions for each recipe, but also that it gives recommendations as well for a variety of ways to customize/personalize your home-cooked dish. We both agreed this dish was pretty good by itself, but could think up half a dozen ways to make it new and different for another time. The mark of a good home-cooking recipe is being able to adapt it to one’s own family/tastes.

The thing I missed about this recipe was the famous socarrat. The socarrat is the delicious crust that forms on the bottom of the paella pan, deepening the flavor that much further. I attribute its absence in this case to the fact that the pan size I used was not the size called for. It was about 1.5in smaller. Also, I feared over-cooking the shrimp which would be infinitely worse than not achieving the crust desired. Since the oven does much of the work in this case, we still had an amazing and easy dinner in the end.

What is one recipe you can make over and over again and make it something a little different each time?


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