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Whenever great cooks think of Spain, they think of one thing: paella. The recipes and ingredients for paella can vary from chef to chef, but one thing remains constant, the paella pan. A paella pan, also known as a paellera, is usually made of stainless steel or carbon as those materials react to heat quickly and evenly. Paella pans come in a number of sizes, from 13-18 inches (33-46 centimeters) across. A paella pan is always broad and shallow, and normally comes with side handles and a cover.
A paella pan top is never used when preparing the national dish. Rice is the one constant ingredient in the many versions of paella. Because the rice is cooked by surface heat, and not by steam trapped inside a closed paella pan, it takes on the classic texture desired in paella-neither mushy nor crunchy. When cooked to perfection, the rice will be dry but zesty. Be sure to use a medium grain rice for authenticity and full flavor.
The other ingredients in paella can vary as much as the chefs who prepare it. Some people believe that adding as many ingredients as possible into the paella pan makes the dish that much more showy at the table, but purists insist all that is needed is a little meat, vegetables, broth, and of course, rice. Typical ingredients can include: chorizo and other kinds of sausage; chicken; fish and shellfish; rabbit; snails; and vegetables such as artichokes, lima beans, green beans, tomato, onion, and red peppers. Spices include garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, and saffron.
Because of the diameter of a paella pan, cooking technique is very important. Most paella pans are wider than the typical stove burner, so cooks need to perfect the method of continually moving the pan to keep the temperature of the entire pan constant. Traditionally, paella is made in Spain over an outdoor grill--a good choice because the size of most grills will accommodate the size of the these pans.
If you want to try out the favorite dish of Spain, you can purchase a paella pan at many general household retailers, specialty cook shops, and on the Internet. Because of the materials used to construct a paella pan, they are prone to rust. After each use, be sure to wash the paella pan, dry it completely, lightly oil it, and keep it in a moisture-free area of the kitchen.
Yum - found this via Google and it sounds awesome, I always confused paella with pannini, ha ha.
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