Authentic Paella making integrates the elements of earth, water, air and fire. I use oak wood from trees in the Hudson Valley and Northern New Jersey. Apple wood and Cherry are appropriate substitutes, depending on the paella. Oak allows me to maintain a consistent pan temperature while the smoke adds flavor to the paella.
Traditionally, paella was eaten by sitting around the pan that was placed on a round table. Each person, respectfully, enjoying a succulent triangular portion with a wooden spoon. This social custom was documented in Spanish literature from the 14th century. I encourage you to participate in this medieval tradition.
The Romans introduced the pan, which in latin is “Patella”, along with the use of irrigation to the Spaniards more than a 1,000 years ago. Steam from the boiling broth condenses and falls back down to the pan as it cools. The convection of flavor on top is complimented by the formation of a caramelized rice layer on the bottom called, “socarrat”.
Arab conquerors introduced rice and perfected the Roman irrigation systems in the eighth century, in the area now known as Valencia. It would be many centuries later when the Bomba rice from that region would perfect this abundantly flavorful meal.
In the harvest months farmers would have a rich variety of ingredients available from their fields and woods to cook this meal. The peasants, who toiled their harvest, cooked paella in the fields where they worked. Traditional Valenciana paella does not incorporate meat and seafood together in the pan. I keep to this practice when creating my recipes. Enjoy one of my artisan paellas and you will taste why!