I grew up eating paella. My mother had inherited a giant paella pan years before, and in the summertime, she would often make a huge dish of the saffron rice. We would have it for dinner, and then we would eat reheated leftovers for lunch the next day. She made it with chicken broth and large pieces of chicken and pepperoni, to make it kid-friendly. I never even considered that there was another way to make it.
But when I was in Mallorca a few weeks ago, I tried the typical dish from Valencia at a restaurant called Pep Serra in Campos. When the dish came out, I saw the familiar color of the rice, the rice I knew from way back when during my childhood, but the rest of the look and taste of the dish was completely different.
Paella in Spain is all about the broth. A broth made from the shellfish and fish, boiled mussels, scallops, lobsters, shrimp. Huge chunks of the fish are scattered throughout, and the entire thing is served in a large dish: the larger (the more people) the better.
In Spain, apparently, the kitchen knows you’re a tourist when you send back your empty paella dish with the crusty rice still sticking to the edges of the paella pan. Like the crispy cheese at the bottom of a fondue pot to the Swiss, this is a local delicacy. I made sure to clean off every last bit, and it was delicious.