Anatomy of a Paella

Few dishes garner more awe than a fully loaded paella. Dotted with vegetables and overflowing with meat and/or mariscos, it’s a blue-collar street food staple in Spain that’s turned into upscale family-style fare at restaurants like Mi Tomatina in Winter Park or La Casa de las Paellas in East Orlando. Most likely, you’ll be faced with land-and-sea options for protein: sausages, seafood and fish, chicken, beef, pork or lamb. The main component, though, is the short-grained rice into which all else is folded. Unlike risotto, a paella’s rice shouldn’t be loose and creamy. Instead, all the liquid should be absorbed to the point that a crunchy layer, known as the socarrat, should be present at the bottom of the pan. That’s when you know you’ve got a good one.