When I was in my twenties and just beginning to experiment with different cuisines, I cooked enough paella that I received an authentic (and pricey) paella pan as a gift from a beau. I still own that pan, but it has been parked on top of the refrigerator for the entire three years Mike and I have lived in our apartment – which should tell you how many paellas I’ve cooked in that time. It’s a dish that I love, but it fell off my radar until recently, when Mark Bittman’s Minimalist Tomato Paella recipe appeared in the Times. I wasn’t the only one seduced by visions of sweet roasted tomatoes, smoky, earthy seasonings, tender rice and that gorgeous crust – in fact, Luisa’s mouthwatering photos practically haunted me. I needed to make this dish.
Since most of our useable kitchen space is covered with platters and such for our party this weekend I didn’t end up dusting off my old paella pan, but our trusty cast iron skillet worked just fine. I followed Bittman’s recipe, using a mixture of white vermouth (1/2 cup) and water (3 cups) for the liquid component, and sprinkling a bit of fresh thyme over the top instead of chopped parsley (it was too dark out by the time I got home to grab parsley from the garden), and let me tell you, this was phenomenal. The depth of flavor in this dish, the textures of the rice and of the roasted tomatoes just floored me, and the fact that it came together so quickly and easily made it that much better. If you’ve been thinking about making this dish and you haven’t yet, do it.