Customer Reviews: Paella!: Spectacular Rice Dishes From Spain
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on September 22, 2002
After trying a couple of paellas from this book, I have to agree with the person who criticized the recommended cooking method. Baking the seafood for 20 minutes ruins it, rendering the shrimp tough and other seafood dry and tasteless. I had much better success with stovetop cooking, adding the seafood during the last five minutes or so. Perhaps baking the paella would work better if the seafood was added later rather than earlier. Ingredient lists and proportions are right on the mark, with the resulting flavors garnering highest marks.
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on February 17, 2005
Although there are many varieties of paella with regional ingredients there is one indispensable ingredient; short grain Spanish rice. The best part of paella is without any question the "socarrat" which is the toasty caramelized layer of rice which sticks to the bottom of the paella pan when the dish is properly prepared on top of the stove or better yet, the grill. One can not make proper paella in an oven, convection or otherwise. The rice will be a soupy mess or dried out but never yield the desireable crunchy "socarrat".

"Paella Paella" is a far superior book although a great recipe for learning the technique of paella preparation can be found at the Fine Cooking magazine website. After you make that once then you may use whatever ingredients you wish to combine to make fantastic paella. Be creative.

Is it worth the trouble to find the proper pan, Spanish rice, saffron and olive oil? Absolutely! "Socarrat" Rules!
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on May 28, 2002
If the Spanish chefs Ms. Casas credits for many of these recipes are as good as she extols, then their secrets are safe. You will have to go to Spain to taste their paellas, because they obviously did not divulge their mysteries to Ms. Casas.
I followed these recipes to the letter. I even went to my local Hispanic market to buy the right rice. Six recipes I tried-and six times they were perfect failures.
Her oven cooking method toughens meat (I tried beef and chicken), and vaporizes seafood (mussels and clams dry up and disappear). Rice is both hard on top because it is baked to a crisp in the oven, and mushy below because the liquid is not simmered away fast enough. Vegetables become soft and taste boiled.
I could go on and on about the shortcomings of this book, but that would be overkill.
Nevertheless, I gave a 1-star rating to this book because the list of ingredients is helpful. If you already know how to cook paella, Ms. Casas' ingredients will give you a great dish even though her cooking method will not.
Suffice it to say, if you search for the earthy, primal, unforgettable taste of Spanish paella, don't look for the recipes here. I have discovered other cookbooks whose recipes replicate the kind of paella I had in Spain. Try them instead. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
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on September 1, 1999
Penelope Casas has come up with yet another indispensable addition to anyone's library of Spanish cuisine. This book greatly expands our knowledge of Spain's great rice dishes and I highly recommend it. Although many paella and arroz recipes seem daunting, if you follow Ms. Casas instructions you will find that, except for prepping the dishes, good paellas are surprisingly easy to make, colorful on the table, and usually popular with everyone. These enjoyable dish can even be reheated by micro-wave the next day, if indeed, there is any left. (My advice is to make double the amount you think you will need.) Making paella is a great family endeavor and the dish is a great dinner party, picnic, or outdoor barbecue dish. The variety of rice dishes in Casas's book gives an idea of the great diversity of Spanish cuisine.
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on September 16, 2002
Ms. Casas seems to have the mistaken idea that all long-grain rice is "converted". It's not.
Also, I don't believe that a recipe that cooks for 10 minutes in a gas oven would take 20 in an electric, "even when (the electric is) properly calibrated". Heat is heat, unless the oven is a convection model. Maybe she ought'a calibrate her GAS oven.
THE HERITAGE OF SPANISH COOKING, by Alicia Rios and Lourdes March, tells you how to cook a paella on top of the stove, and by extension, the grill, like they do in Spain and New Orleans.
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on September 17, 1999
I love to cook, but have always been intimidated by paella. I'm not sure if it was the special pan or the expensive saffron- but I never tried it until I bought Paella! Our first attempt was not only delicious, but down-right memorable. Casas explains each ingredient and process clearly, indicating substitutions for more familiar ingredients where appropriate. Don't wait! I made my first paella without a paella pan or saffron. Maybe Santa will bring both because I'm certainly not going to stop making paella!
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on June 7, 2009
Two stars for the author's passion, and because the ingredient lists, at least, really look worth trying. But as for "rescuing" paella from "worldwide ignominy" (as Penelope Casas immodestly gives her objective...and where exactly is paella regarded with "ignominy", anyway?), this book must be regarded as a failure.

Paella, like risotto, is about technique as much as ingredients, and the techniques presented in this book are baffling. How can an author sing the praises of tradition as loudly as Casas does in her introduction, and then devote the entire book to her frankly non-traditional technique that bakes paella in the oven for 20 minutes? With 50+ recipes, you'd think she'd find time to at least give one recipe for paella cooked over wood fire or on a charcoal grill, or using one of the special-built paella burners you can buy, or even just cooking the entire dish on the stovetop. Alas, this is not to be--Casas has her oven technique, and essentially repeats it 50 times with different lists of ingredients. This is scarcely believable, but there is is--she has photographs of paella cooked over fires in Spain, and even tells you "if paella is not made over a wood-burning fire, you are not likely to achieve a socarrat" (the crusty, almost-but-not-quite burnt layer of rice that makes paella lovers swoon), but can spare scarcely one paragraph to give you a few scanty notes on cooking over a fire. The crowning glory of paella--written off utterly in a cookbook devoted to the dish. Ridiculous.

Another sad deficiency is the photography, which is scanty and black-and-white. For a showy dish like paella, for which a beautiful presentation is such a big part of the fun, a few full-color photographs would have gone a long way--but the lovely cover shot is the only such one you will be getting here.

I enjoyed reading the introduction, and I admire Casas for her devotion and the passion with which she writes about paella--but the body of the book falls far, far short of the promise of those first pages.

Footnote: Alton Brown, of Food Network's "Good Eats" program did an episode on paella in 2010 which represents a huge leap over anything in this book. He builds a charcoal fire in an ordinary Weber kettle grill, and cooks a really admirable paella on it. There: was that so hard? The video is easy to find on YouTube. The humor is a little corny for my taste, but the technique is impeccable. You'll do a lot better there than with this book.
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on March 20, 2014
Initially I was put off by the fact that every recipe in this book begins with "Preheat the oven to 400 degrees". "Who would make Paella in the oven?", I thought. I'd never heard of such a thing.

After a little research (and asking a 'paella expert' who comes from Spain) making paella in the oven is not uncommon. Alberto Herraiz in his excellent book 'Paella' says: "For the best flavor and texture, the easiest and most successful method is to start off the paella on the stove and carry out the rest of the cooking in the oven."

Other reviewers have said that you can't develop a proper socarret - that thin layer of tasty crunchy caramelized rice at the bottom of the pan. Though I do not yet have first-hand experience, I believe that's not true.

There were two things that attracted me to this book:

1. Lots ideas for different paellas. Paella is one of those dishes like risotto: there is a basic recipe to which you can add almost anything. This book gives me lots of ideas.

2. Recipes for tapas I could use to accompany the paella.
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on October 3, 2001
If you want to make authentic paella, look no further than Penelope Casas' book entitled Paella! This is Spain's most famous dish, and it originated in Valencia, where I lived for several years. Casas' book is a delight for anyone interested in making this easier-than-you-might-expect dish. Like her Foods and Wines of Spain, she goes beyond simply writing a book of recipes--she explains a lot of the history and culture behind paella, which any food lover or lover of Spain will find most interesting. What is truly exciting about this book is that Casas includes a wide variety of paellas, from seafood and vegetarian paellas to rabbit, chicken and even meatball paellas. I have made countless paellas of all types described in this book and without exception they have all been delicious. Casas gives numerous and clearly written details on how to make an authentic paella. She even gives directions for making paella over an open fire, which as any person from Valencia will tell you, is by far the best way, and I agree. Casas also gives lots of valuable advice such as only short-grain rice can go into a paella, as any other type will change (ruin) the texture of the dish. Paella is a beautiful and surprisingly easy dish that never fails to please at a dinner or a party. Casas includes some of the classic paellas from Valencia, Cataluña and Murcia, while also including some lesser known versions of the dish, like one with pomegranites that is fabulous. If you have a paella pan, or plan to acquire one, you won't want to be without this essential book, which is truly a classic on this most famous of Spanish dishes.
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on April 17, 2006
I am originally from Spain, and when I came to the US with my family and mom's recipes, it was really hard to convert all the measurements from the metric to the american system. So, when I found this book, I bought is GREAT!! All the paella recipes that I have tried make me feel at home again. The recipes are easy to follow and really clear. My next buy will be her book about tapas. Since I am from the north of Spain, I will let you know what I thin about those recipes, but I am expecting a great book as well.
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