Vancouver restaurants celebrate Spanish Paella Day with their own takes on the national dish of Spain

You could make it at home, too, on March 27

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      If you love heaping dishes of fragrant rice studded with chunks of fresh seafood, chorizo sausage, peppers, and other delicious ingredients, you’re going to want to mark your calendar: March 27 is Spanish Paella Day.

      There are scores of regional variations of the national dish of Spain. Early versions—which were cooked over open flames in a paellera, a wide pan that gives the dish its name--were said to contain rabbit, snails, and beans; today, everything from lobster to squid might appear.

      España (1118 Denman Street) is celebrating National Paella Day with Liberado Wines, a Spanish wine newly available in B.C.

      Chef Neil Taylor is creating two types of wine-spiked paellas for diners to choose from: a Chorizo, Smoked Ham Hock, Spinach, and Red Wine Paella; and a Porcini, Prawn, Mussel, Chicken and White Wine Paella.

      Each one ($45) will feed a hungry couple or can be shared by a small group. Glasses of Liberado's Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo and Verdejo-Sauvignon Blanc will be on offer for $5 each.

      Bodega on Main (1014 Main Street) is another place to find paella in Vancouver. Among its versions are Paella Negra, which has squid-ink rice with prawns, calamari, baby squid, mussels and clams; and Paella Mixta, consisting of saffron rice with chicken, pork, and mixed seafood. It also makes a vegetarian dish. Paella Jardinera is loaded with padrón peppers, artichoke hearts, oyster mushrooms, asparagus, grilled fennel, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas. The dishes take about 30 minutes to prepare.

      If you're looking to celebrate at home, Taylor shares a recipe. 

      Porcini, Prawn, Mussel, Chicken, and White Wine Paella

      Serves 2 to 4 people
      Recipe by chef Neil Taylor, España


      1 large red onion, finely diced
      1 large green pepper, finely diced
      4 garlic cloves, chopped
      50g dried porcini, soaked in boiling water
      1/2 Tbsp toasted & ground cumin
      1/2 Tbsp toasted & ground fennel
      1/2 Tbsp. dry oregano
      2 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
      220 g Bomba or Valencian rice
      1.5 L chicken stock, lightly seasoned with a good pinch of salt
      20 0mL Liberado Verdejo-Sauvignon Blanc
      8 large wild prawns, shelled and deveined
      3 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs, cut in half
      12 cooked mussels left in their shell
      Olive oil to cook with


      In a paella pan, heat a small amount of olive oil over medium heat just until it starts to smoke. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, take out of the pan and set aside for later.

      Add the onion, green pepper and garlic and raise the heat slightly. Cook slowly until the vegetables start to slightly caramelize and become soft, then season with a good pinch of salt and continue cooking at the same heat for 10-15 minutes.

      While the vegetable mixture is cooking, strain the porcini through a fine sieve and set the liquid aside, roughly chop the porcini and set aside also.

      Add the spices, dry oregano and parsley to the vegetable mixture and cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the chopped porcini and cook a further 2-3 minutes.

      Pour the reserved porcini soaking liquid into the mixture and cook until liquid has evaporated. Pour in the Liberado wine and again cook until liquid has evaporated.

      Add the rice to the paella pan and mix it through the sofrito, which is the mixture in the pan, season with a pinch of salt and stir the rice in the pan for a few minutes or until the rice begins to “toast”.

       Ladle in enough chicken stock to cover the rice by approximately half a centimetre, raise the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a moderate simmer and cook for about 15-18 minutes, shaking and rotating the pan as needed to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Try not to stir the rice at all, only doing so if the rice is sticking a lot. Continue to top up the stock in the pan until the last 5-6 minutes of cooking, at which point just let the rice finish off absorbing what’s left in the pan.

      When you stop adding the stock, add the chicken thighs back to the pan, pushing them down into the rice. Follow with the prawns and mussels and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the rice is cooked. The rice should have some bite to it without being at all crunchy or soggy.

      Remove the paella pan from heat and cover with foil for 5 minutes to help the rice finish absorbing stock and to let the flavours develop and relax.

       Remove the foil cover and put the pan back on heat, cooking on medium-high heat until the rice at the bottom lightly crackles and sticks to the bottom of the pan. This will create a layer of crispy and slightly caramelized rice on the bottom of the pan called the socarrat.