I had another cooking demonstration at the Le Creuset in Sandestin, Florida on Saturday! This time, I was featuring Le Creuset’s Paella Pan. This cast iron pan has a matte black enamel finish and is 13 1/2 inches wide (17 1/2 with the handles). It is shallow and wide, which is essential to making paella. I also see it being great for frittata and other dishes that require a large, flat surface.
Of course, the first dish I made in the Paella Pan was Paella. Paella (the word directly translates to “pan”) is a Valencian dish combining short grain rice with meat (or seafood), vegetables, and seasoning. The additions to Paella may vary based on the area and family, but there are three basic versions. Paella Valenciana (Valencian Paella) is the original paella and made from chicken, rabbit, maybe snails or duck, beans, tomatoes, paprika, saffron, garlic, and olive oil. Paella de Marisco (Seafood Paella) adds varied seafood to the rice and vegetables. Paella Mixta (Mixed Paella) was created by outside influences on the Valencian Paella and combines meat and seafood.
Before testing out this pan, I had never attempted to make paella. It was on my bucket list, but I was quite intimidated. Paella requires a few specialty (and expensive) ingredients that I had never worked with (plus a new pan that I had never worked with) and during the trial run, I was worried about ruining the entire dish. I am so happy to say that the paella turned out beautifully. The top of the paella was light and barely moist with a crisp layer at the bottom. I enjoy shrimp, but am not the biggest fan of other seafood. This was the first time I had even touched a mussel- had to google search how to purchase and clean them prior. I did give them a try, but the texture is still a bit much for me. Evan didn’t like them either, but he wasn’t feeling well during the trial run so I will see if he likes them next time. Chad was happy to have them all to himself.
Paella is not risotto. Stir as little as possible here, so you get a crispy layer to form on the bottom. If using mussels, buy them the day you make the paella if at all possible. They should be alive and fresh. Don’t use any that are chipped or broken. If they are open at all, gently tap them so they close. If they don’t close, toss them out. Right before putting them in the paella, scrub them clean and pull or cut off the beards towards the hinge. Place them in the paella hinge side down, so they have room to open.
The type of rice used for Paella needs to be a short grain Spanish rice. Bomba (sometimes labelled Valencia rice) is the best type to use. It is nearly round and absorbs more liquid than other varieties of rice. Calasparra can also be used. I was able to find Bomba rice in the international food section of a nearby grocery store. It is also available on Amazon, but on the expensive side compared to if you were able to find it locally: Matiz Valenciano Premium Bomba Paella Rice.
Piquillo (Spanish for “little beaks”) peppers are a type of red chili pepper from Northern Spain. Their taste is similar to roasted bell peppers with a little more spice. They can be found in many larger grocery stores in the specialty section roasted in jars. They are also available on Amazon: DeLallo Roasted Piquillo Peppers and Roland Whole Piquillo Peppers. If unavailable, substitute with roasted red bell peppers.
Spanish Chorizo is a type of smoked or cured sausage seasoned with paprika. Based on the type of seasoning, it can be spicy or sweet. It is available in the specialty or deli section of many larger grocery stores and I was able to find it in a local specialty cheese shop. Do not substitute with Mexican Chorizo, a completely different product.
Pimentón is a Spanish paprika made from ground chile peppers. The flavor varies based on the type of pepper used. It can be Dulce (sweet), Agridulce (mild) or even Picante (hot). It is available in the spice or international food section of many larger grocery stores or on Amazon: Chiquilin Smoked Paprika Tin and Sweet Spanish Smoked Paprika.
Disclaimer and Disclosure: Everything written here is my own opinion. I received the Le Creuset paella pan and other products following the cooking demonstration.