When I was 17, just out of high school and enjoying the summer, I met a Spanish boy and of course, I was smitten. He was only here for the summer, but we became close friends fast. After he left, I scraped, saved, begged and borrowed to afford a 2 week trip to visit him in Madrid. To save money I stayed with him and his parents. While there, his mother made paella, with shrimp, clams, mussels and crawfish. It was heaven, so delicious, aromatic and the experience stuck with me. After my whirlwind trip there full of museums, tapas, road trips to the country side and all the glitz of Madrid, I came home determined to extend the experience. The internet didn’t exist then and I wasn’t patient enough for the library, so I tried to recreate the paella I enjoyed, along with a potato egg dish I couldn’t remember the name of then, but now know as tortilla de patatas. So there I was, fresh from the heady experience of traveling to another country solo, trying to make paella, in an electric wok, from memory using Asian white rice. Needless to say it was a epic disaster, but my parents muscled their way through it, bless their hearts, even “oooohing & aaahhing” while I dissected the dish trying to figure out what I did wrong.
I’ve tinkered with the recipe over the years, too many times to recount and friends have come to visit me from Madrid to help me perfect the flavors I remember. With each bite, I’m taken back to that first trip and all the memories and friendships I made. I hope my recipe imparts a bit of the Spanish life for you. Enjoy!