Paella: Spanish Pleasure in a Pan

  It’s a sunny afternoon in the Mediterranean city of Valencia, Spain. Friendly Spaniards smile and wave as you stroll by. Suddenly, a rich, delicious smell fills your nostrils. Up ahead, an excited group of locals is standing around a large, round pan of food that’s cooking over a fire. “Paella”-- the word rolls off your tongue as your mouth starts to water.

  Valencia’s paella is famous, but most Spanish provinces have their own versions of this traditional dish. Paella’s ingredients include rice, olive oil, roasted rabbit, chicken, shrimp, red and green peppers, onions, and plenty of garlic. But the key ingredient is saffron, an exotic, fragrant spice that gives paella its rich flavor and orange-yellow color.

The word “paella” comes from patella, which is Latin for “pan.” A paella pan is round, shallow, and flat, and has two large handles. It’s usually made of iron. To prepare an authentic paella, a good paella pan and a hot wood fire are essential.