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Just Back From Spain, Nancy Leson Offers A Few Pointers On Paella

Both Nance and I have been traveling these past weeks. I traveled across Canada by train, and Nancy went to Spain and France with the KPLU Travel Club. While there, she and her fellow eaters tried their hands at the iconic Valencia dish, paella.

No Such Thing As Authentic Paella?

According to Nancy, there is no such thing as the "authentic" paella.

"I'm here to say that whatever makes you happy, that is your paella — make it your own. And I learned this at the Barcelona Cooking School," she said.  

I should point out that not everyone agrees with that sentiment, including the writer of the Not Hemingway's Spain blog and his Paella Valenciana entry, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

I've always thought of paella as a containing clams, mussels, shrimp and so on. But the version Nancy and the gang made in Barcelona contained none of the above. Reason why? They were working on a Monday and on that day there are no fishmongers at the nearby famed Boqueria Market.

When Not To Stir

Credit Nancy Leson.
Here's Mac's take.

Here's another tip for would be paella preparers: Once you add the stock to the rice, don't stir.  You want that rice to develop a nice crust, the soccarrat.

Nancy's husband, Mac, is no slouch of a paella maker, either. His recipe is basically that of The Spanish Table in Seattle, a great place to get all the spices and hardware you'll need to make your own.  Or if you'd rather someone else did the cooking, Monday is paella night at Chef Tamara Murphy's Terra Plataon Capitol Hill.

Home grown saffron.  Hoping for about 15-20 more threads.
Credit Stein

Homegrown Saffron! 

I'm looking forward to making my own paella this weekend, and I'll be making it with my own home-grown saffron.

That's right, punters. After two years, my crocus sativus bulbs have finally bloomed.  I'm harvesting the bright red pistils and hoping all 15 will produce.    

Credit Stein
The lovely and talented Cheryl DeGroot and I celebrated yet another 39th birthday aboard The Canadian.

By Train Across Canada

While Nancy was paella-ing it up in Barcelona, DeGroot and I were riding the rails on a four-and-a-half-day trip from Toronto to Vancouver on Via Rail's The Canadian, a train so cool they put it on their $10 bill.

It was a beautiful trip in every way and I highly recommend it. Great food, too.

"There is no love more sincere than the love of food."

– Spanish proverb

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.