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Paella adds color to Chicago menus

May 4, 2012 8:30:45 PM PDT
It is the pride of Valencia, the easternmost Spanish region. Paella is meant to feed a group of people, and the special, wide-and-shallow pans get a lot of use at La Taberna Tapas in University Village near the UIC campus. Their most popular, and widely-known, is the seafood version.

"There is squid, shrimp, mussels and then we add two kinds of chorizos. One is the traditional Spanish sausage and then we use another one called chistorra - it's a sausage from Catalonia," said Chef Enrique Cortes.

One of the keys is rice. While the Italians prefer arborio, Spaniards will more often than not go for bomba.

"We use bomba for some of our paellas which is the most traditional Spanish rice and arborio, that it works perfect," Cortes said.

The rice is cooked with the seafood, and like risotto, broth - in this case, chicken stock - is added slowly. But the difference here is that saffron threads have been added to the broth, which, along with powdered turmeric, give the finished paella that trademark hue.

"Just a splash of turmeric with the saffron will finish up the color," he said.

Cortes also makes a paella negra with squid ink, lending a deeper, darker color to the dish, and adding a note of richness. But the one element that separates paella from risotto is the socarrat - a crispy/crunchy layer at the bottom of the pan, achieved by finishing the paella in the oven.

"When you're cooking the paella, you hear the rice kind of cracking, and you make a noise. And even you think that it might be done, but it's not," said Cortes.

Now the paella comes in different size pans depending on how large your party is. But the thing to remember is it takes about thirty to 45 minutes to make it. So if you want to get paella, best to order it as soon as you sit down.

La Taberna Tapas
1301 S. Halsted
(312) 243-9980
www.latabernatapas.com

Also mentioned:
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!
2024 N. Halsted
(773) 935-5000
www.cafebabareeba.com

La Tasca
25 W. Davis St., Arlington Heights
(847) 398-2400
www.latascatapas.com


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