Jill and I haven’t been shy about discussing our collective obsession with Spanish cuisine in these pages—our love affair with tapas and sangria has been going strong since our inaugural trip together, and it shows no signs of waning anytime soon. Fried chunks of potato doused with aioli, shrimp in sizzling garlic oil, served in a hot cazuela, blistered shishito peppers sprinkled with sea salt, croquetas de jamón (or blue cheese and dates, if we’re feeling fancy)—these are the things of which reveries are made.
But as much as I love those small-plate staples, I’ve always been less than impressed by what may as well be the country’s de facto national dish: paella. (Not that that’s stopped me from wanting to make a great version myself, mind.) After one too many encounters with an underwhelming, blandly seasoned pan of rice, I gave up, mentally categorizing this dish as one that’s great in theory—what’s not to love about seafood, sausage, and garlic?—but fails to live up to its billing in reality. Silly me. Turns out I just hadn’t met the right one yet.