Morty: Not really.
Kramer: Oh, it's an orgiastic feast for the senses."
--Seinfeld episode "The Raincoats"
The Automatic, and I attended as a media guest. All of the attendees were able to vote for their favorite Paella and the winner was.....
Well, I'll hold off on that announcement until later in this post.
East Coast Grill and the author of several books. Most recently, he opened The Automatic with his friend, legendary bartender Dave Cagle. Chris's Paella recipe has become famous, even featured in The New York Times. Jamie Bissonnette, of Little Donkey, Toro, and Coppa, is also a James Beard award-winning chef and can brag about his Paella too. He headlined this year’s Food &Wine Classic in Aspen, showcasing his Paella to the massive crowds. Two culinary powerhouses, creating their own spin on a classic Spanish dish.
Paella is a Spanish rice dish that likely originated in the region of Valencia, on the eastern coast of Spain, during the 19th century but its roots extend back over 1000 years. Over 1200 years ago, the Moors introduced rice to Valencia, which would subsequently become one of the most important rice-producing areas in all of Spain. The exact origins of paella are a bit murky and there are numerous origin stories, some which appear to have been created mainly to make a fascinating story.
For example, one story suggests that Moorish servants created paella-like rice dishes for their families using leftovers from royal banquets. Thus, it has been claimed that "paella" derives from the Arabic word "baqiyah," which means "leftovers." Another more fanciful tale states paella was created by a man for his lover, and that "paella" is a corruption of the phrase "para ella," meaning "for her." It seems more likely that the word "paella" derives from the Latin word "patella," which means "pan."
The term "paella," which is commonly used to refer to the food, actually refers to the "cooking pan" and not the rice dish itself, making the Latin origin apt. The dish is more properly referred to as "arroz a la paella" though most everyone nowadays just refers to the dish as paella. Interestingly, the term "arroz," which means "rice," is derived from Arabic, which makes sense as the Moors introduced rice to the region.
---Francisco de Paula Martí (1818)
We know that during the 19th century, field and farm workers commonly prepared paella, using rice and whatever else was readily available, and cooking it over a wood fire. The first known written recipe for paella appeared in 1840. The first paellas, even in Valencia, didn't contain seafood, and might have instead snails, chicken, rabbit or duck, plus vegetables like green beans, tomatoes and onions. Over time, as seafood was common in the region, it began to be added to some paella dishes. Today, there are many, many different varieties of paella.
The traditional paella pan is large, round and flat, with a relatively short height, allowing the rice to have maximum contact with the bottom of the pan. The expensive spice saffron has also become an important ingredient for paella. A number of different rice types may be used, including Bahía, Senia, Leda, Balilla, and Bomba, with the common element being that these rice types can absorb plenty of liquid and flavor. Bomba seems to be the top choice of many Spanish chefs. And please note that March 27 is considered National Paella Day.
Which wine should you pair with Paella? It will depend in part on what type of paella you are enjoying, whether it has more seafood or other types of meat. I would begin by suggesting you drink Spanish wine, though obviously plenty of wines from other regions would work well too. Sticking with Spanish wine, my top choice would be Sherry, especially a Fino or Manzanilla if the paella has seafood. If the paella is more meat heavy, then I'd suggest an Amontillado or Oloroso Sherry. A dry Spanish Rosé would also work well with most Paella. I'd even recommend Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. With seafood-heavy paella, white wines, like Albarino and Godello, would be nice choices, and for meat-heavy paella, red wines like Mencia, Rioja, and Garnacha would work nicely.
Alexander Jules Fino 22/85, which was a superb pairing with the appetizers as well as later with the paella.