Rice with corn and chorizo is a wonderful dish which follows the paella recipe template – which turns out to be as flexible as you’d like.
How do recipes come about?
To be honest, I’ve no idea how I came up with the idea for this recipe. Most probably I wanted to do something with rice, and something with sweetcorn, and I had some chorizo knocking about the fridge. My best cooking has a lot of incidental value to it.
I usually draw inspiration from food publications, social media groups or by browsing competition. Or I just open the fridge and check what I fancy using.
Chefs and recipe inventors must do better than that. Lots more testing than what I do must go into the final instruction, though I sometimes doubt that very much.
But it’s the various methods of cooking that fascinate me the most.
Rice two ways
Who would think for example to sprinkle rice onto liquid instead of, as surely common sense dictates, pouring water over rice?
It is interesting to compare the techniques of risotto making with paella: the former is about laboriously adding the liquid, spoonful by spoonful, stirring and stirring.
You’d not think of Italians as patient folk but there you go – happily stirring and singing opera, I imagine.
While the paella party sloshes the stock about, chucks the rice in and stops worrying about the whole endeavour for half an hour. Taking a siesta, most probably, while the rice cooks all on its own.
Not saying which is better, of course. There is simply more than one way to cook an egg. Or rice.
The principles of cooking Spanish rice dishes
As I pointed out above, the Spanish approach is highly casual.
Once you’ve grasped the method, you can cook a vast array of dishes in this way, worrying very little about their authenticity. What’s the point anyway? If it tastes good, it’s good enough for me and you, and various recipe totalitarians can stuff themselves. With rice.
But what does the Spanish way of cooking rice mean in practice?
It’s simple. First you need to cook whatever aromatics as well as any protein you choose to add, except seafood, in some fat.
To that add the seasoning, be it only spices or tomato paste, chillies or herbs as well.
Next come vegetable ingredients, like sweetcorn in this instance and beans or peppers in a more classic paella-style dishes.
All that is drowned in stock, and the rice, dry, without rinsing, is sprinkled over the surface of the liquid, more or less evenly.
And that’s the end of active cooking! Do not by any means stir your dish from now on. The rice will cook in the bubbling liquid over medium heat.
Once that liquid is absorbed, a brief spell over high heat and under a lid, if possible, is required, so the rice at the bottom turns crisp. If you add seafood, arrange it at this point over the surface and it will steam on hot rice.
The signal that the dish is ready will be some popping and crackling sounds coming from under the lid. Your rice will now require a short rest, maybe steaming off covered with a clean towel, and it will be ready to serve.
Special paella pan?
You might think it’s all very well except paella and its varieties need a special pan and possibly also a special burner. That’s completely not true. Any large frying pan, sauté pan or skillet is good enough.
I have cooked paella and its derivatives in a non-stick pan, a cast iron pan as well as that special paella pan and the results were very similar. Likewise, I’ve cooked it over gas as well as induction and both were fine. Contrary to expectations, it is actually a very forgiving dish.
The one below, with fresh sweetcorn and chorizo, is the perfect summer options. But you can try endless variations, whichever direction your cooking fancy takes you (don’t be afraid to tinker!).
The one close to classic Valenciana features chicken and prawns. You could try making an almost authentic one if you use rabbit and green beans.
I like a bacon and tomato combination, but there will be nothing wrong either with pork and mushrooms, I expect. The meat must be reasonably quick cooking though, so I’d use pork fillet or loin in this instance.
Obviously, you can make it wholly vegetarian, with just peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, peas and beans added. And the last do not have to be green beans: your paella-thing will be delicious with tinned butter beans or chickpeas.
More paella-style recipes
Chicken and prawn paella, an absolutely foolproof recipe. For best results use paella rice, Bomba or Calasparra and an ordinary large frying pan.
Fideua, Spanish pasta dish with fish and seafood, is cooked exactly like paella: in an enormous pan, only with short vermicelli pasta replacing rice.
More Spanish recipes
Easy calamari recipe: fried calamari rings with chorizo slices and spring onions. Call it calamari or squid, this recipe will make an excellent starter or a light lunch dish.
Pan de cristal, Spanish glass bread is gorgeous not only con tomate. It also makes the best toasties, and it is not that hard to make at home.
Padron peppers, pimientos de padron, a Spanish dish of pan-blistered padron style green peppers. A delicious snack from the tapas menu, they can be eaten whole.