Minnesota is the land of the one-dish meal, better known as hot dish or casserole. There’s definitely something to this. Why dirty up a multitude of pots and pans when you can feed an army from one large dish? I’m all for easy entertaining, and while old-school Midwestern food has recently come back into vogue, I’d prefer to serve my guests something with a little more flair. Enter the Paella Party.
Paella is the quintessential Spanish rice dish, a working-class meal named after the pan in which it is cooked. At its simplest, paella consists of short-grain rice, vegetables, and protein, cooked to sumptuous perfection with rich stock and saffron over an open fire. One of the original one-pot meals of the Western world, it is at once simple, delicious, and perfectly suited for backyard entertaining.
To make a perfect paella, you’ll need a few things. First, you’ll need heat. Light up the grill, or better yet, put that old fire pit to use. Next, you really ought to have an authentic paella pan. Trust me, it makes all the difference, plus it looks significantly cooler than your hacked-up skillet. At Surdyk’s we sell not one but two different paella pans, including the gold standard Pata Negra, which just so happens to be perfectly sized for a Weber charcoal grill. Next, and perhaps most importantly, you’ve got to have real paella rice. I prefer Bomba or Calasparra, both of which we stock. Invest in some saffron threads. A little pinch goes a long way, and paella just wouldn’t be paella without it. From there, you’ve got carte blanche for whatever it is you crave. I like to stop by our seafood purveyor, Coastal Seafoods, to see what they’ve got in stock that strikes my fancy. It could be mussels, littleneck clams, big fat prawns … you get the idea. Stroll through the aisles at Surdyk’s and you’ll find plenty of Spanish treasures to add to the mix: Palacios chorizo, Marcona almonds, olives, smoked or hot paprika, and so much more.
Backyard entertaining calls for food, friends, and of course, cold drinks. Nothing could be better-suited to your paella party than a pitcher of Sangria. Check out Lindsey Coleman’s blog here for some fabulously refreshing ideas. Once you’ve got a drink in your hand and the fire ablaze, it’s time to relax and let loose. Have your friends take turns stirring the rice and adding ingredients, and soon enough you’ll be on your way to enjoying the perfect one-dish summer meal. – Emily Dunne, Surdyk’s