When I was a kid, paella was one of my mom’s Special Party Dishes. It was a dish she made when she wanted to really impress company. Golden rice was studded with all sorts of delicious ingredients, shellfish perched perkily on top, and every bite was a little symphony of flavor and texture and color. My mom knew a good show-off dish when she saw it.
There are almost as many recipes for paella in Spain as there are grains of rice, and there are also lots of opinions on what kind of rice to use – I used Calaspara or Bomba, the rice preferred by most Spanish cooks, but you can use other short grain white rice as well. I have even seen basmati used in some recipes. The whole point of paella is for rice to be simmered with a bunch of aromatic vegetables (the sofrito), and then infused with chunks of seafood, fish, sausage, chicken, and/or rabbit.
If you think you might take a page out of my mother’s book and make one-pot paella your go-to show-off entertaining dish, then buy yourself a paella pan – not very expensive, and perfectly designed with lots of surface area so that everything cooks evenly, and the presentation is a big, wide WOW.
And flowers, because why wouldn’t you keep adding color until you can’t anymore? Put on some sultry Spanish music to complete the mood, set the pan of steaming paella in the middle of the table, and clink glasses to my mom.