Valencia is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. Great architecture, culture, and cuisine gather together in this little gem of a city that faces the Balearic sea.
Throughout history Valencia’s splendid location attracted cultures contributing to this fantastic region character. Moors brought new ingredients to the region like rice, sugar cane, oranges, almonds, and spices. The Romans brought the utensils to cook with. This kind of influences, shaped one of the most iconic Spanish dishes, Paella Valenciana. The original Valencian Paella recipe consists of a combination of chicken, rabbit, rice, green vegetables, artichokes, peppers, bomba rice, white runner beans, saffron, fresh rosemary, sweet paprika, garlic and lemon. It sounds divine, right? And also a little far off from the Paella Mixta we know in America.
I had the opportunity to travel around Spain with my Grandma Ana. One of the cities we visited was Valencia. We had a blast, and of course every time I tried some remarkable food I wanted to know the origin of the dish. I love to hear about different stories about what people believe and their traditions. For me, this is an enriching way to know a culture; by their stomachs! So I took this info at face value and what I discovered is that Valencianos prefer to make their Paella with one category of meat at a time and not mixing them. Hey, since they are the Paella creators, I will go with their advice!,… And it make sense, seafood ingredients available in the near coast, they use shrimp, langoustines, mussels, clams, and squid. Areas more inland use land creatures, rabbit, chicken. What ever freshest available always taste best.
Throughout Spain, other variations have been adapted for inland areas creating the infamous Paella Mixta which combines a variety of white meats, seafood, sausage and chorizo. But, just remember that Valencians are very proud of their dish and they do not recognize this Paella Mixta as Original Paella Valenciana. So watch out what you call Paella Valenciana unless you want to get in to a heated argument.
Every country has their nationalistic pride when it comes to Cuisine, and in this case there is no exception since Paella is Spain National dish. Every culture has their memories linked around a particular dish, ingredient or preparation that was carried by generations, runs in the family, or evokes a moment in time. And It is admirable when people stand by their beliefs and roots. I do respect that.
I hope knowing all these facts makes you less intimidated, after all they say knowledge is power. I would say in this case, knowledge is inspiration. I truly believe that everybody has a little of a cook inside. I would love to encourage you to be comfortable with the idea of cooking and enjoying the process. Have some red wine, Rioja if possible, and music on the side to let that cook come out. Whether you are preparing the best butter on a toast or a dish with a lot of history and tradition like this Seafood Paella Valenciana, just have fun and be curious about it.
Honoring the authentic Paella Valenciana, I made it strictly with seafood. We live in Texas, and have some access to great shrimp from the gulf, beautiful fresh rosemary in abundance and delicious Spring vegetables, and Texans know all the whereabouts to build a wood fire and that’s one of the key ingredient on the Valencian Paella, since it was created by people on the mountain.
I took the main components of the traditional recipe and added Spring vegetables like asparagus and green peas. I truly wanted to add some artichokes but I could not find good looking ones for some reason; anyway If you find some artichokes it would be a divine addition, if not, no biggy, it is a delicious recipe any way. This seafood Paella Valenciana can be done in about 2 hours total including the prepping. It is definitely a dish that makes it perfect for small to medium gatherings. It is a fun crowd pleaser. With this fabulous weather, cooking outside and grilling this Spring or Summer its one of the best things to do.
Hey! Get out your inner cook and just cook!
Olé! Guapo…Let’s start!…here comes the recipe…