I’ve been considering making Paella for years. I even thought about buying a paella pan for years. Hell, once we bought the pan, rice and a recipe book, I thought about it for another six months before we finally got around to it.
It’s not exactly a middle of the week dish, I think there has to be a reason for the *season*. But after watching that enormous pan in our cabinet for months, we finally found the right time and place; our backyard in June, before it gets too hot in Chico, but warm enough that cooking outdoors brings a sigh of relief to our small cottage. Dani’s sister, her husband and son were visiting from Oceanside with a couple of friends and we decided the time had come.
We broke out the pan and had Dani’s whole family over for a summer treat. We had the pan, we had the rice and the recipe, but we needed the ingredients first. And there are a lot of ingredients. We went to our local small grocery store and bought all of the ingredients, some of which were supplemented by our own garden.
We used Athena Calderone’s recipe from her book Cook Beautiful, which we highly recommend.
We have a hearth in our backyard which we can use as a wood burning stove and we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to use it. It’s so nice to drink wine, build the fire and slowly cook while spending time with family as the colorful dish slowly materializes.
Preparing the meal itself is a sort of meditation, one step at a time; first the onions, then the chorizo, then the veggies, seasoning occasionally, then the rice, the broth, the clams, the broth stirring, stirring, stirring and topping it with the prawns and then covering with foil, building smokey layer after layer of flavors.
I was sweating and it was almost dark by the time we ate outdoors by candlelight and the beauty of this classic dish is absolutely worth the time and effort that it takes and I know that it will probably take another six months of just thinking about it before we have the chance to make it again.
Photography by Dani Padgett Watson
Words by Maverick Watson